SHANGHAI — In the U.S., brands like ThirdLove, Savage x Fenty and Skims have built their brands by offering an expanded range of intimates sizing. In China, however, it’s Ubras, Candy La Vie and Sujiin that are building fast-growing businesses by offering an inclusive size range.
This new crop of brands are edging aside traditional Chinese bra-makers like Embry, Aimer or Cosmo Lady with their extended size offerings, product innovation and dynamic advertising, wresting away a larger share of the Chinese lingerie market — estimated by Frost & Sullivan to be worth $64.49 billion by the end of this year.
“When you think about Chinese people you think that the Chinese are all petite and thinner, but this is not true at all,” said Olivier Pichon, the founder of Privet, a lingerie distribution company in China that serves as the partner for international brands, including Chantelle Group, Aubade and Eberjey for China. Pichon said more C and D cups are sold than A and B in his business.
While body diversity has always existed in a country as large as China — there are 56 officially recognized ethnicities and significant differences even between northern Han and southern Han, the dominant ethnic group — women with larger busts mostly had to rely on international brands to fit them. But that segment is becoming much harder to ignore.
According to research released from the medical journal The Lancet last November, the typical 19-year-old female in China in 1985 was 5 foot 2 inches, while males were 5 foot 5 inches. In 2019, those numbers grew to 5 foot, 4 inches for women and 5 foot, 8 inches for men, with the increase in men’s height clocking the largest gains in the world. Further research by The Lancet indicated that an increasing number of the population is becoming overweight or obese.
Beijing-headquartered Ubras, which last year was the top-selling lingerie brand during Tmall’s Singles’ Day, was an early advocate for the one-size-fits-all bra idea in China. Founded five years ago, its signature collection is seamless, made of lightweight fabrics and forgoes underwires. The company not only boasts an ability to fit all sizes, but said it designed its bras to take the wearer through any activity — whether that be sleeping, lounging, working out, traveling, being at the office, and pregnancy. The product was also well-suited the company’s digital-first model. The assurance the product would fit no matter the size helped customers feel comfortable shopping online.
In a similar vein, Neiwai launched its Barely Zero collection with the tag line “your size is the size” featuring a soft and highly stretchable product that fits women up to D-plus cup.
Sujiin, another recent digital start-up improving on inclusivity, is known for its bras that fits a DD cup and its use of models of all skin colors.
While the above brands cater to smaller sizes, too, Candy La Vie is a start-up dedicated solely to women wearing larger cup sizes.
“From our user data and research we found that 80 percent of women are not wearing the right bra size,” said Zhang Chengpu, Candy La Vie cofounder and creative director. “A lot of them would wear things loosely. Maybe their size is actually a 70D, but they were buying 80B. That kind of situation was common. Or for those that had a bit more knowledge about lingerie, they would go overseas to buy their bras.”
“Chinese may seem to be petite and overall, Chinese are a bit skinnier so the band size may be smaller but many still need large cups. It’s just not as evident that they have a large chest,” she continued, adding that the brand has worked on educating the customer on the difference between large cup size and large band size.
Culturally, it appears there’s a shift underway in China when it comes to body positivity, and women embracing their larger sizes.
In May, Victoria’s Secret rolled out a campaign with Yang Tianzhen, an influencer known for her curvy figure and for being outspoken about body positivity. In addition to her partnership with Victoria’s Secret, Yang, who initially rose to fame as the celebrity agent for stars like Fan Bingbing and Lu Han, also has her own plus-size clothing line, PlusMall.
“I always found that plus-size items were always very dark colors to minimize the appearance of size,” said Yang, “but I wanted to have bright and colorful options. If you’re fat, I don’t think you should deny that you’re fat. You should just acknowledge that you are fat, it’s still beautiful.”