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As the doors opened, fashion torrent swept in

By Zang Yingchun | China Daily | Updated: 2016-06-01 06:31

For the past 35 years the Chinese fashion has gone through a transformation that stands as vivid testimony that the way we look and the way we dress are as pertinent as reminders of where we have come from as the key dates in a history book.

In the early 1980s the country opened its doors to the world with a program of economic and social reform that would change the fabric of the nation in many more ways than one. Half a decade later the vibrant and thriving society that China has become could be seen as traditional State-owned enterprises, the township enterprises of Jiangsu province and the private economy of Wenzhou made their mark on the fashion industry.

Among young and middle-aged women, dresses with wide hems and miniskirts became highly popular. Yes, the doors had been thrown open to the world, and Chinese women enthusiastically welcomed and began to wear the Western clothes that swept in. Before long the country's leaders would routinely be wearing Western business suits, as did everyone else.

By the 1990s Chinese were not only paying much more attention to what they wore but to the labels that hung on that attire as well. These brands became the main symbols of status and taste. Great changes happened in women's styles, and in the mid-1990s shoulders began to be cut more narrowly, waists were thinner and tighter. Business suits no longer had a wide, square shoulder, and for men more attention began to be paid to the light, thin and elegant.

In addition, the concept of casual wear began to become widely accepted, and attire became bolder and bolder.

As the country embarked on the road of market economic reform, it seemed everyone was in competition with one another. The pioneer men's brands Shanshan and Red Bean led the reform charge in the fashion world.

These days many Chinese choose world-famous brands, but that should not be construed to mean that they blindly follow what is popular. Rather, they are happy to choose clothing that is appropriate for them. The 21st century, it seems, is the era of making personal statements.

Over 35 years the suit, jacket, Western-style shirt, jeans, T-shirts and other Western clothing have became a part of everyday life.

The impact of the mobile internet era, social networking and greatly changed lifestyles are challenging the traditional concepts of brand, marketing and services. However, for the Chinese fashion industry in particular these challenges hold out the hope of greater things to come.

The writer is a professor at Tsinghua University.

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