13 Oct 2014
Stylish Mainlanders Opt for Fashion and Safety for Children's Wardrobe
- Photo: Practical and stylish: The twin aims of children’s clothing.
- Photo: Educational toys.
- Photo: Safety-first cycling.
- Photo: Infants in style: The ethnic look.
- Photo: Children’s chic on show.
- Photo: Silicon bottle safety.
- Photo: Infant milk power: A hardy perennial.
- Photo: Cotton wear free of chemical dyes.
- Photo: Stylishly presented: New clothing designs.
- Photo: The fashionably wet-look.
The 6th Guangzhou International Exhibition for Mommy & Baby Products and Garments saw parents ever more keen to ensure that their off-spring looked stylish, but safety issues remained paramount in this rapidly expending sector.
The maternity, baby and children products market is growing rapidly in China. The country's huge population and its rapid urbanisation programme are all acting to fuel this. A number of new developments will further expand the market this year, notably the gradual implementation of the selective two-child policy in various provinces. Adding to the mix is the addition of the Year of the Dragon (2012) baby boomer generation, which is now two years old, plus rising consumption trends overall.
The 6th Guangzhou International Exhibition for Mommy & Baby Products and Garments (Mommy & Baby Expo or MBE) in September chimed well with this surging demand. Nearly 300 exhibitors from 20 countries and regions, as well as 10,000 buyers, attended the event. In addition to food and health products, toys and clothing, there was also a focus on the emerging trends set to reenergise this sector. This was particularly noticeable with regard to the way mainland parents are now paying far more attention to personalised, safe and smart products.
Another area of significant change was children's wear. The Children's Wear Industry Report 2012-2015, published by the National Bureau of Statistics of China, suggests the industry will grow by 25-30% per annum. It is expected that, by 2015, China's market for infant cotton clothing and daily necessities will reach Rmb227.98 billion. While popular children's wear brands, such as RYB Kids, Balabala and Dadida, account for the lion's share of the market, sports brands such as Li-Ning, Anta and 361 Degrees are making inroads. Due to the rise in living standards, parents now regard "style" as an important consideration when it comes to purchasing goods for their children.
Style an issue
Guangdong Duo Studio Co Ltd's Duo Duo Duo brand, launched in early 2014, specialises in fashionable clothing for three to eight year olds. Liu Qiong, the company's Brand Manager, emphasised the need for quality materials and good design. She believes such clothes have to satisfy young parents who favour a designer lifestyle – a significant shift from the recent past when cost was the principle determinant. Liu has followed the adult fashion world and begun introducing seasonal collections. This autumn/winter's "ethnic touch" collection features Chinese cotton-padded jackets, Bohemian gowns and lambskin vests.
Li Yan is the founder of Shenzhen DiiiD Co Ltd, a manufacturer of stylish children's rainwear. He says: "Mums and dads are now far more open and liberal when it comes to parenting concepts. One of the products often overlooked is the children's raincoat, something that can be both functional and fashionable."
According to Li, raincoats on the mainland are often made of non-breathable fabrics, are unimaginatively designed and have limited use. By contrast, a number of British brands, notably Burberry and London Fog, or South Korea's Kolon Sport, offer functionality, elegance and fashion. Li's company us now aiming to blend fashionable design elements, including movie references, in its range of children's raincoats products.
Guangdong Duo Studio is also committed to the rainwear sector. Liu Qiong, its brand manager, said his company has spent considerable time and money on developing its waterproof and breathable raincoat fabrics. She said it took nine months to source the appropriate PVC, EVA, PU and TPU materials and settle on a breathable membrane-like nylon fabric. Since the fabric is of such high quality the company needed to employ skilled workers to sew the products and ensure quality and comfort.
Smart products proliferate
Industry research had indicated that smart electronic health products particularly appeal to young mums. The allure of these mobile device-linked products lies in their ability to provide biometric information about the child's development.
With this in mind, Beijing's Adding Inc was promoting its self-developed smartwatch for pregnant women. Connected to a mobile phone app via Bluetooth, it also provides weather updates. It provides exercise management systems for weight control during pregnancy and body shaping after birth. The device can also record and analyse foetal movements. Fu Mingjing, the company's Marketing Director, said young mothers are more figure conscious than they used to be and this is partly why the device has proved so popular.
Jin Sanqi, president of Hangzhou Doouya Co Ltd, believes young parents have a need for real-time information monitoring. A Smart Bean thermometer, newly developed by his company, monitors the child's body temperature via a smartphone app and Bluetooth. It can thereby warn of fevers and provide a reference point for a doctor's diagnosis of a condition. Jin said: "During the developmental stages of an infant, there are changes in its height, weight, saliva and breathing, which need to be monitored regularly." He added that the market for mobile medical equipment and monitoring has just begun on the mainland, but is already looking very promising.
Emphasis on safety and comfort
Overall, adult and children's wear fabrics are significantly different. The latter are not only softer and more comfortable, but are also subject to more stringent safety and environmental requirements. Under the National General Safety Technical Code for Textile Products (GB18401-2010) promulgated in 2012, children's wear has three product classes. These vary in terms of formaldehyde content, PH value and colour fastness – Grade A for infants, Grade B for inner garments, Grade C for general products.
Shenzhen Globaby Co Ltd's Naturecolored brand manufactures cotton wear free of chemical dyes. It imports organic cotton and linen and uses Xinjiang coloured cotton and top quality white cotton. Its production process is also free of chemical dyes, formaldehyde, heavy metals and azo dyes. Each season Naturecolored launches fresh designs for mother and baby, children and household wear. The company's account manager, Li Junli, said most parents do not know much about children's wear product safety, but they should look out for fabrics that dry quickly and can transfer moisture.
Addressing the safety issues, Zhang Ruizhang, marketing manager of Dongguan Infant Choice Co Ltd, says: "The fastest growth stage is from nought to three years old. This when there are major changes to the body, mobility, internal organs and immune system. Infant skin is also delicate, so the design of the waistline, neckline and cuffs needs to be different to adult clothing and more demanding. Zip seams and the safety of button openings are also important, as is saliva resistance and the use of fireproof materials."
According to Zhang, his company complies with national quality standards and uses fabrics only made from combed cotton and naturally regenerated fibres, while also sourcing eco-friendly dyes and imported resin buttons. It employs bio-polishing yarn and seamless sewing techniques, ensuring the clothes are softer and the seams do not cause friction.
The 6th Mommy & Baby Expo was held at the China Import and Export Fair Pazhou Complex in Guangzhou from 11 to 13 September 2014.
Xing Fang, Special Correspondent, Guangzhou