fashion china trends 2023

5 Fashion Trends in China to Watch For in 2023

From gorpcore to goblin mode and TikTok fashion, here are our predictions for 2023’s hottest fashion trends

3 0
Beatrice Tamagno Headshot
4:04 PM HKT, Mon January 9, 2023 3 mins read

An exciting year for fashion in China, 2022 has been filled with high-profile events like Shanghai Fashion Week, which brought the fashion community together after a two-year hiatus.

Chinese social media sites Xiaohongshu and Douyin (which are comparable to Pinterest and TikTok) are where most trends are born, spread, and evolve, and have also become incubators for the development of digital fashion in the country.

Here are our predictions for what young Chinese fashionistas will obsess over in 2023, and how they will choose to express themselves, whether it’s through gorpcore or goblin mode.

1. Goblin-Mode Fashion

A buzzword that has taken China by storm in 2022, ‘let it rot (摆烂)’ is an even more cynical version of ‘lying flat (躺平).’ The mentality was brought on by a particularly stressful year marked by slow economic growth, youth unemployment, and continuous lockdowns.

Chinese youth gave up on hustling and inevitably turned to ‘goblin mode’ instead. Chosen as Oxford’s word of the year, goblin mode describes “a type of behavior which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.”

Refusing to maintain one’s appearance might become a hot (and political) trend in 2023. We may observe the rise of natural or ‘no-makeup makeup looks,’ comfortable clothing, and anything that makes people feel good — forget trends or conforming to traditional beauty standards!

2. Guochao Re-Imagined

A recent McKinsey report has confirmed that Chinese consumers’ enthusiasm for domestic brands did not wane. What has changed, however, is the way that this passion is expressed through style.

Guochao (国潮), which translates to ‘national trend,’ entered a new chapter in 2022, and blossomed into xin zhongshi (新中式) or neo-Chinese style.

Guochao collage designed by Zhuohan Shao

As with guochao, neo-Chinese style combines traditional Chinese fashion and modern elements, but does so in a bolder and ‘edgier’ way, borrowing from niche aesthetics, such as cyberpunk, goth, and the hyper-popular Y2K style.

The evolution of guochao is bound to continue, and we are bound to see more Chinese brands emerging, experimenting, and taking inspiration from China’s rich history and traditions in fabrics and garments.

3. Gorpcore’s Continuous Rise

With China’s sudden lifting of its stringent pandemic prevention measures, many youngsters have one thing only on their 2023 bucket list: traveling, or any outdoor activity that will allow them to leave their apartment.

Waterproof fabric, hiking shoes, and functional wear are some staples for on-the-go lifestyles. Hence gorpcore’s fast popularity in China in 2022. This momentum is likely to keep going, as more Chinese youth hit the road after two years of living under the country’s zero-Covid policy.

gorpcore china glamping camping china

Gorpcore looks in China. Images via Xiaohongshu

Brands that specialize in outdoor apparel like Solomon, The North Face, and Patagonia will keep doing well while also facing challenges from emerging Chinese brands such as Bosideng, which topped the world charts in down jacket sales in 2021.

4. Anyone Can Be a Trendsetter

Social media has changed the fashion game in ways we could have hardly foreseen. The body positivity movement and conversations around race and gender have inspired more and more brands to embrace diversity, both in China and abroad.

Recent years have seen plus-size and disabled models like Xu Ruoxin and Xiao Yang gracing the pages of magazines like Vogue China and advertisements for hot domestic brands like Markknull.

china fashion brand

Xu Ruoxin in a Marrknull campaign. Image via Instagram

What’s more, thanks to the rise of image and video-oriented platforms like Douyin and Xiaohongshu, everybody can be a trendsetter.

Trends like ‘ Dorm Fashion Week’ and fashionable elders speak for the democratization of fashion, which is likely to continue. Furthermore, netizens are increasingly taking part in shaping the world of fashion, which has inspired luxury brands to collaborate with them.

5. Edgy Hipster: Meet the Yabi

While trend predictions normally revolve around the mainstream and the popular, many Chinese youth are trying their best to be ‘alternative.’

This ever-expanding group of rebels has been labeled yabi (亚逼), a compound word comprised of ya, meaning ‘sub-’ as in subculture, and bi, a derogatory term in a variety of Chinese insults, such as shabi (傻逼) or ‘idiot.’

china subculture fashion trends 2023

Yabis are the new hipsters in China. Images via Xiaohongshu

The yabi aesthetic, which has slowly emerged over the past few years, sees an eclectic mix of subcultural elements. There are no rules here, so everything, from punk to goth, and Y2K to e-girls and e-boys, may meet halfway. The one consistency in the aesthetic is to differentiate one’s self from the mainstream.

Born in China’s underground music scene before blossoming on social media platforms like Xiaohongshu, this trend is very likely to persist, especially with the recent lifting of China’s pandemic prevention measures.

china subculture fashion trends

More yabi fashion. Images via Xiaohongshu

Watch our explainer to learn more about yabi:

Yabis across China will gain more opportunities to gather in clubs and live music venues in 2023, and will thus thrive. We expect their aesthetic to continue to evolve while absorbing influences from other subcultures.

Cover image designed by Zhuohan Shao

Join the Conversation
Write comment

Use this time to reassess your life choices