Seven years ago, during its bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics, China made a commitment to the international community to “engage 300 million people in ice and snow activities.” Now that the Games have closed, the winter sports industry sees the potential for China to become a key market.
The Opening Ceremony for the Games on Feb. 4 integrated technology, culture and sustainable fashion, featuring brands including Ralph Lauren for the U.S., Ben Sherman for the U.K., Le Coq Sportif for France, Adidas for Germany, Emporio Armani for Italy, Lululemon for Canada, Descente for Japan and Ochsner Sport for Switzerland, among others. It is estimated the Winter Olympics will help drive related industry revenues to more than $47.43 billion, which will reach an estimated $100 billion in three years.
Facing such a huge market, how can China’s apparel industry turn the “cold resources” of winter sports into a “hot economy” on the fast track and seize the momentum?
On the one hand, boosted by both the Winter Olympics and the Chinese New Year, consumers drove a boom in winter garment consumption. According to data released by Alibaba and Jingdong, two of China’s largest e-commerce platforms, garment consumption during the Chinese New Year holidays, which intersected with the Winter Olympics, showed a year-over-year increase of 180 percent, with a 300 percent rise in sales of skiing equipment and winter sports gear on Alibaba-owned Tmall from Jan. 31 to Feb. 4 and a year-over-year increase of 322 percent and 430 percent in turnover of skiing equipment and winter sports gear on Jingdong from Jan. 31 to Feb. 5.
On the other hand, investors focused more on China’s apparel and textile industry as a result of the Games. On the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, 10 trading days after the opening of the Olympics, shares of Anta Sports, the event’s official sportswear partner, rose by 12.53 percent on Feb. 4; shares of Li Ning increased 7.43 percent; Bosideng, which owns the international ski brand Bogner, rose by 12.7 percent, and sports business distributor Topsports of Belle climbed by as much as 27.7 percent. At the stock markets in Shanghai and Shenzhen, investors are searching for target companies in textiles and apparel with excellent value potential. As a result, outdoor clothing brand Pathfinder and woolen textile and apparel industry chain integration enterprises such as Nanshan Fashion attracted close attention.
Momentum already had been building to boost winter sports participation in China even before the Games opened. In 2015, China won the bid to host the Olympics and three years later, the General Administration of Sports of China unveiled the “Implementation Outline (2018-2022) of ‘Engage 300 Million People in Ice and Snow Activities.'” By the time the Games closed, 346 million Chinese people had participated in winter sports.
Sun Ruizhe, chairman of the International Textile Manufacturers Association and president of the China National Textile and Apparel Council, said, “The intensive release of policy dividends will effectively promote the vigorous development of the winter sports industry. A number of winter sports industry enterprises with high popularity, great influence and strong market competitiveness will see vigorous development through the implementation of the brand strategy. The successful 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games laid a strong foundation for the future development of winter sports apparel and equipment, with innovations in new textile materials including new fiber materials, new non-woven materials, intelligent textile materials and ecological dyeing and finishing materials as the key link in its high-quality development.”
The Winter Olympics will serve as a watershed moment for the fashion industry in China, which is expected to use the Games to help set a new course focusing on cultural, technological and green development.
After the Opening Ceremony, a saying that gained popularity was: Chinese romance will never fail one’s imagination.
The ice lanterns and mountains, Chinese knots and peace doves showed that “Chinese romance” was no longer the romance of mere imagery, but now involves digital technology and integration. For example, Chinese designer Chen Peng’s costume for children featuring snowflakes and the peace dove incorporated the culture of paper-cutting in Yuxian County, Hebei province. The design was created by Ren Zhiguo and Sun Qingming, practitioners of Hebei’s paper-cutting heritage. Inspired by the structure of ancient Chinese doors and windows, Chenpeng Studio turned the paper-cut graphics into the final “New Chinese Window Flower” graphic with innovative fashion concepts. Another example were the clothes worn by the flag raisers, a green version inspired by the painting “A Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains,” which aimed to convey the idea of equality and love in a sporty, stylish design style.
Also inspired by the painting, Feng Chen Wang, designer of Chinese designer brand of the same name, used traditional Chinese landscape elements as the background for the full set of outfits worn by the Olympic flag bearers. On the coat, color gradations and historic buildings and Olympic landmarks created through the art form of line drawing were used to show the integration and connection between man and nature in a shared world and future.
Another supplier, the central government-owned enterprise Poly-China Silk Corp., fused traditional patterns with high-grade silk fabrics and nontraditional brocade weaving techniques to help promote the beauty of Chinese culture.
Beyond the artistic elements, though, the technological prowess of the Chinese apparel industry also was meant to be on display via the Winter Olympics garments.
The technology for warmth and protection against the cold contained in the official Winter Olympics uniform created by Anta in collaboration with Professor He Yang, head of the Olympic Costume and Culture Research Centre at the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology, was based around the China-developed fabric technologies Blazing Heat Technology and Waterproof and Moisture Permeable Technology.
Blazing Heat technology consists of a 3D structure of poly-heat cotton with optical heat storage performance capabilities and increases the heat loss barrier effect by about 20 percent to enable efficient heat storage, while the application of a far-infrared graphene material significantly improves far-infrared irradiation warming. In addition, the Super Down material has a nano-level protective layer that is waterproof and moisture proof while increasing the fluffiness of the down by 30 percent compared to ordinary down, increasing its warmth.
The “Dragon Suits” for Chinese athletes used Blazing Heat Technology, enabling them to be light and thin yet still be warm in temperatures as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius. The technology also was applied to Anta’s “China Winter Sport Collection,” which was launched last November and includes Super Down jackets, skiwear and accessories, and children’s clothing.
As well as technology to help keep athletes warm, Chinese brands worked to make the materials as sustainable as possible — even down to the ribbons on which the Olympic medals were hung. The ribbons were produced by Wensli and were printed with a weft slope of less than 1 percent by using AI image recognition and processing technology. During the manufacturing process, the new GBART green printing and dyeing technology based on color digitization was applied to treat the dyes and silk fabrics and improve dye penetration of the fibers. This enabled the process of washing used in conventional dyeing to be eliminated, reducing pollutants such as sewage and ammonia nitrogen.
The torchbearer uniforms, meanwhile, used a waterless printing process that produced no waste water discharge and caused almost no environmental pollution. Jackets worn by the waste removal teams were made from rPET material and had a detachable thermal lining filled with fleece that was 83 percent made from recycled materials and had the following inscription on the corner of the jacket and accessories: “I am made from 28 beverage bottles.”