Domestic giants accelerate their overseas expansion, what other waves can be stirred up in the underwear market?

What other changes can occur in the underwear market as domestic companies increase their international presence?

Many professionals believe that lingerie and home clothing are the last potential growth areas in the fashion market.

Data shows that the current market size of the lingerie industry is $26 billion, while the home clothing market is expected to grow to $13.36 billion by 2025. The booming development of this industry is largely driven by the demand of young consumers, as well as changing social values and lifestyles.

With the change in women’s attitudes and the increase in income and purchasing power, coupled with the global expansion of body positivity movements, the global lingerie market has undergone significant changes.

The traditional lingerie giants, represented by “Victoria’s Secret”, are no longer unique, and new styles of lingerie, such as comfortable and wire-free, are thriving.

What kind of changes is the global lingerie market undergoing?

How should lingerie brands cater to the changing demands of consumers?

How much potential is there for Chinese lingerie brands to go global?

The lingerie market: comfort over sexiness

How many new lingerie brands are there, and how much capital is flowing into this market?

According to a report by data company iiMedia, from 2019 to 2020, dozens of emerging lingerie brands successfully raised millions or even billions of dollars to develop their businesses.

Even now, there are still new and old lingerie brands continuously raising funds and going public:

In 2021, lingerie brand NEIWAI completed a $100 million Series D financing, led by a global dollar investment group;

In 2022, large-cup lingerie brand Naitangpai received nearly $100 million in Series B financing, led by Zhongjin Culture Consumer Fund.

In 2022, SKIMS, the shapewear brand under Kim Kardashian’s name, obtained $240 million in Series B financing, led by Lone Pine Capital;

In 2022, Savage X Fenty, the lingerie brand owned by Rihanna, received $115 million in Series C financing, led by Neuberger Berman;

In 2022, American lingerie brand Parade received $50 million in financing.

It is worth noting that most of these brands are founded by women. Why do they all want to create innovative DTC lingerie brands? In fact, this is largely related to the founders’ own experiences.

Cami Téllez, founder of Parade, could hardly find lingerie brands that 18-25 year old girls like before she founded Parade in 2019. Heidi Zak, founder of ThirdLove, was also a user of Victoria’s Secret, but she couldn’t find a suitable bra size for herself. Liu Xiaolu, founder of Nèi Wài, said she couldn’t find a particularly comfortable bra when she opened her closet.

These women found that in the previous lingerie market, it was always difficult to find lingerie that fit their body and was comfortable to wear. These brands focused on “sexy and mysterious,” but ignored women’s basic needs, such as the lack of suitable bra sizes, uncomfortable materials, and mismatched styles.

These pain points have apparently troubled women for a long time. Therefore, these women decided to innovate the lingerie industry, using a new inclusive concept to develop the women’s lingerie market and benefit more women.

More and more lingerie brands that promote openness and inclusiveness are appearing in the market, gradually challenging Victoria’s Secret’s dominant position. From ThirdLove’s public criticism of Victoria’s Secret to the rise of more and more lingerie shows that “reject Victoria’s Secret,” the banner of “sexy and mysterious” lingerie has fallen, and consumers’ purchasing preferences have also begun to shift.

The revolution in the lingerie market not only involves iterative improvements in lingerie products, but also reflects the progress of societal values and the liberation of women’s beliefs. From an excessive emphasis on sexiness and slimness to advocating for diverse body shapes, lingerie has now been labeled as a “female lifestyle”, with diverse products and brands representing women’s pursuit of self-expression and self-connection.

As a part of the overall trend of consumer upgrading, lingerie has shifted from functional clothing to a tool of personal expression. Nowadays, bras with no size, no underwire, and high inclusivity are more popular among women.

At the same time, this trend has gradually infiltrated the Chinese market. Under traditional aesthetic standards, Chinese women mainly choose functional lingerie with underwire and push-up effects. However, the demand for comfort is increasingly important for Generation Z, which has brought about new market potential for inclusive lingerie.

In the US, brands such as ThirdLove, Savage x Fenty, and Skims have created their brand by providing a wider range of lingerie sizes. In China, emerging lingerie brands such as ubras, Neiwai, and Naitangpai have also grown rapidly by creating inclusive lingerie, gradually surpassing traditional lingerie giants such as Victoria’s Secret, Aimer, and Urban Revivo.

Chinese lingerie brands are accelerating their expansion overseas.

After achieving initial success in the Chinese market, these lingerie brands are now thinking about how to make their brand recognized by overseas consumers.

Why do lingerie brands need to expand overseas?

Firstly, it is an inevitable topic of globalization. With the rapid development of cross-border e-commerce, the fashion track where lingerie is placed has been verified to be successful in overseas markets. Brand expansion overseas is not only a requirement of the times, but also an important process for brand upgrading and growth.

According to the 2021 Tmall and Taobao overseas Double 11 data, among the top ten fastest-growing Chinese apparel brands, most of them are lingerie brands. Multiple brands, including Neiwai, Nai Tang Pai, and ubras, have achieved a 100% increase in sales compared to the same period in 2020. In the first half of 2021, the demand for lingerie overseas increased rapidly compared to 2020, with particularly high demand in coastal regions.

In addition, the huge market appeal of overseas markets is evident. According to Allied Market Research, the global lingerie market is expected to reach $325.36 billion in sales by 2025.

Aside from the multi-billion-dollar market size, there is also a high demand among overseas consumers for high-quality lingerie. The “2022 China Lingerie White Paper” shows that Chinese women on average only purchase lingerie four times a year, while European and American women purchase it 12 times a year.

Furthermore, lingerie is something that almost everyone wears and is a category with high customer loyalty. According to Strandberg, once consumers find the lingerie they really like, they often continue to purchase it.

With market space, consumer groups, and success stories, there seems to be no reason for domestic lingerie brands not to go overseas. However, there are already many lingerie brands in the overseas market, and the brand loyalty of Generation Z is relatively high. How to break down barriers and make overseas consumers accept new brands is still a challenge.

Nevertheless, many Chinese lingerie brands are already actively trying to go overseas and have developed their own “methodology.”

1. Neiwai

“To make Neiwai a global brand was our idea from the beginning of the brand’s establishment. We hope that Neiwai can grow into a truly global brand that combines Eastern aesthetics with an international perspective,” said Liu Xiaolu.

The pictures are from the official website of Neiwai.

In 2015, Neiwai began collaborating with overseas buyers to sell their products and accumulated feedback and experience through participation in overseas exhibitions.

In 2020, Neiwai chose the United States as its first destination for going global. They established a local operating team in the United States and launched an international independent website in October. With comfortable products and distinct brand values, overseas users have grown rapidly. The expected sales for the entire year of 2021 are predicted to exceed $30 million.

Overseas, Neiwai maintains the same aesthetic style and brand concept as in China and makes adjustments to the product style based on the body types of overseas users. At the same time, they implement localization in social media marketing, collaborating with influential YouTube celebrities to release product reviews or experience videos, gaining fans’ favorability through the KOL’s own influence, and completing the process of user flow diversion to the independent website and conversion to consumption.

2. Ubras

In recent years, Ubras, which became popular in China with its “one-size-fits-all” underwear, has also started its journey of going global.

Unlike Neiwai, Ubras targets the overseas Chinese market, mainly in North America, with Europe, East Asia, and Southeast Asia as supplementary markets. The core user group is foreign female consumers aged 14 to 45.

The pictures are from Ubras.

In terms of going global channels, Ubras did not focus on cross-border platforms or independent websites, but instead used the Tmall Global platform to conduct overseas business through customized activities. For example, in 2021, they participated in the Tmall Global Brand Day event for the first time, gaining exposure and traffic through customized stores on seven core overseas sites and exclusive channel coupons.

The head of Ubras overseas said that they will gradually introduce more underwear products that can solve life problems around the complete growth chain of women.

3. Luvlette

In the second half of 2022, the fast fashion giant SHEIN launched its independent lingerie brand “Luvlette”, officially entering the women’s lingerie market.

According to Brand Ark, SHEIN registered the Luvlette trademark as early as 2020 and launched the brand on the Shein official website in 2021.

Image source: Luvlette

It is understood that Luvlette’s products include lingerie, underwear, home wear, sports bras, and leggings, with a focus on low prices and high quality, with prices ranging from $10 to $30 per item.

At the same time, Luvlette’s overall brand concept also follows the trend of the market, advocating “pleasing oneself, comfort, and love”, and has launched a special plus-size lingerie series to expand the selection of lingerie sizes, which also meets the clothing needs of plus-size women in the American market.

On social media channels, Luvlette has already entered mainstream platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, and has gained a certain number of followers.

Under the leadership of these pioneers, the trend of lingerie going global has been set off. How will domestic lingerie brands continue their stories?

The overseas space for Chinese lingerie

Looking at these overseas brands, it can be seen that their overseas strategies have their own characteristics, but they also have similarities. For example, they focus on the North American market and radiate to other regions; they advocate localization in product development and customization for target audiences; and their brand concepts promote diversity and inclusiveness, with a focus on comfort and self-expression.

So, is the overseas lingerie market a potential growth track, and is it worth domestic brands trying their luck?

Brand Ark believes that China’s lingerie going global itself has certain local advantages and inherent conditions.

Firstly, let’s talk about the supply chain. It is understood that over half of the supply chain for underwear in North America is currently located in China. Top brands such as Victoria’s Secret, Savage X Fenty, and Skims rely on Chinese underwear factories.

Among them, the Chaoshan region has formed an underwear industry cluster. In just Shantou alone, there are over ten thousand underwear manufacturing enterprises, which contract 70% of the global women’s underwear market share.

According to data from the Chaonan District Industry and Information Bureau in Shantou, in 2022, Chaonan district’s output of women’s underwear accounts for approximately 40% of the national total. Every year, over one billion pieces of underwear and home clothing are produced here and sold to various parts of the world.

In March 2022, Puning City also signed a cooperation agreement with Guangdong Chaoshan Underwear Industrial City Co., Ltd. to jointly build the global headquarters of the underwear industry chain.

Nowadays, China’s underwear industry not only has complete industrial and supply chain resources but also has rich product design and development experience. For domestic brands, these underwear factories are a unique advantage.

Secondly, the positioning and route of domestic underwear brands cater to the current market trend – the wave of “self-comfort” for women. Such as the “comfortable oneself inside and outside” concept, ubras’ “let the body be free first,” and Naitangpai’s “embracing plus-size women.”

They abandon the “restraints” of traditional underwear on women in terms of wearing and spirituality, highlighting the “self-comfort” values in brand concepts and background stories, thus winning the favor of consumers.

At the same time, domestic underwear today will pay more attention to product segmentation and innovation, launching specific products for different groups of people or only doing certain segmented categories, and expanding product lines to give consumers with different needs a choice. For example, many brands have launched size-free underwear, half-size underwear, plus-size underwear, etc.

The pictures are from both domestic and foreign sources.

Looking at the overseas market, although there are numerous underwear brands, the pain points of specific consumer groups still exist, and domestic underwear can fill this market gap. For overseas consumers, striving to achieve the best solution in product innovation and differentiation is also the direction of domestic underwear efforts.

In addition to the above conditions, domestic underwear brands also have a certain e-commerce foundation and marketing genes, and are familiar with the consumption preferences of Generation Z. The strategy of rapid volume growth in China can also be tried to replicate in overseas markets.

In terms of channels, in addition to traditional joining of e-commerce platforms or setting up independent sites, some underwear brands have started to try offline physical stores to enhance brand presence.

It can be seen that there is still a lot of imagination space for domestic underwear to go abroad. Although it is currently in the early stages, brand ark believes that in the near future, more brands will join this track, and some brands will become famous overseas.

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