The great winter jacket debate: affordability vs style

Ding Yining
North China's quilted jackets with flowery patterns and military-style overcoats are popular with youngsters in winter because of their affordability and efficacy.
Ding Yining

Dong Weiming, who has been producing cotton overcoats for over a decade, is relatively surprised that online shops are ordering cotton-padded jackets during the recent cold spell.

Dong said his factory in Zibo, Shandong Province, wholesales sweaters and winter overcoats for seniors at retail stores, but this year's online demand was surprising.

"We ordered a dozen extra sewing machines to meet demand after selling 300,000 thick cotton coats with huge flower motifs since early winter," Dong said.

As the cold weather swept across the country, the cost-effective north Chinese traditional garment became popular among young people for its practicality.

The great winter jacket debate: affordability vs style
Ti Gong

A winter apparel factory rushes to cope with online orders.

Traditional Chinese quilted jackets with flowery patterns and military-style overcoats are winning over college students this winter.

Chloe Chen, a sophomore at the Hangzhou-based China Academy of Art, said nearly a dozen of her classmates have bought the military-style overcoats.

"It covers most parts of the body and is cost-effective," Chen said. "Also, I don't have to be concerned about stains because it's easier to clean than pricey coats."

In the six weeks since early November, the average number of searches for military-style overcoats on, Alibaba's integrated domestic wholesale platform, increased by more than 230 percent, while the number of buyers for quilted jackets with floral patterns increased by 50 percent.

The great winter jacket debate: affordability vs style
Ti Gong

As customers seek affordable overcoats, north China's traditional winter clothes are becoming more popular online.

Eyebrows were raised, and customers questioned the rationale of a local emerging down jacket brand charging more than 5,000 yuan (US$704).

Skypeople, created in 2022 in Beijing, put a hefty price tag of up to 7,000 yuan on a down jacket, sparking online debate.

This prompted many to wonder how much a winter coat should cost and whether Chinese companies should compete in the luxury market for down jackets.

The great winter jacket debate: affordability vs style
Ti Gong

Skypeople's high-tech down jackets have raised eyebrows for their expensive pricing.

Recent discussions have also revealed differing perspectives on what consumers genuinely want. Functionality, cost-effectiveness, adaptability to local preferences, or innovative technology materials?

According to a study conducted by Xinhua News Agency, more than two-thirds of respondents felt down coats were costly.

A separate iiMedia poll found that around one-third of customers are willing to choose a down jacket priced between 500 and 1,200 yuan.

But around 37 percent favored international brands with comparable price levels to domestic brands, while 33 percent preferred local brands with fair quality and a reasonable price.

Domestic data service provider Moojing Marketing Intelligence believes 182 million down jackets were sold between November 2022 and October 2023, with a total sales value of 83.6 billion yuan. The bulk of down coats cost less than 1,000 yuan.

"It's still difficult to convince myself to spend more than 5,000 yuan on down jacjackets, and local brands need to assure shoppers with long-term demonstrations of their quality and design qualities," Albert Yu said on the social media site Xiaohongshu.

Nonetheless, the market offers plenty of room for expansion, with new goods from both established and emerging brands trying to carve out a niche market by responding to shifting demands.

The great winter jacket debate: affordability vs style
Ti Gong

The latest Bosideng down jacket designs blend the zodiac sign and the lucky red hue for the upcoming Chinese Year of Dragon.

Bosideng, China's largest down-clothing manufacturer, reported a strong revenue and earnings jump in the six months to September, owing to strong sales from high-end and mid-priced brands.

It has gone beyond simply promoting functionality and anticipates stronger emotional connections with customers for its value offer.

The latest co-brand series with Chinese sculptor and artist Ren Zhe demonstrates the company's attempts to exploit local cultural heritage elements, such as the Chinese symbols of wisdom and hope associated with the dragon pattern.

The design patterns also mix the zodiac sign with the auspicious red color and dragon totems, allowing consumers to unleash their creativity even further.

The great winter jacket debate: affordability vs style
Ti Gong

Chinese zodiac culture inspired down jacket designs

Customers are more conscious of not only the price tags but also the amount of down fill inside a jacket, as well as technical terms like fill power, which assesses the fluffiness and quality of a down product.

They compare quality, design aspects, and warm-keeping functions.

The technical terms are significant, but not everyone enjoys ice and snow activities, and for most urban commuters, versatility and style are important.

Many winter jacket vendors also provide advice for warm-keeping functions in different regions of China, as the temperature varies greatly in different parts of the nation throughout the winter.

Lucy Lu, a Shanghai fashion columnist, argues that winter jackets should allow for more diverse style than merely keeping warm.

"In recent years, many designers are already pouring efforts to combine the function of staying warm as well as fashion and style features," she said.

She commended the adaptable and lightweight characteristic of the down jacket from a local brand, which allows her to move freely when commuting and working, allowing a working mother like her to readily adjust in different situations.

"For example, it's completely acceptable to wear a down parka jacket to meet with business partners as well as a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood without feeling too clumsy," she explained.

Fashion crazes, whether low-cost or high-priced, come and go in an instant, and only those that target certain customer pursuits are expected to acquire buyers' recognition in the long run.

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