The Skinny On Hong Kong Lingerie

Via the International Herald Tribune we learn of Hong Kong’s rapidly expanding fashion market, which they say ironically includes slimming foundation garments. The claim is that this is mostly due to the increase of mainland Chinese coming to Hong Kong to shop.

“Although Chinese women are for the most part naturally slim, they still share the same figure flaws that most women worry about,” says Maria Williams, swimwear and lingerie buyer for Lane Crawford, the Hong Kong luxury department store.

The store has had so many requests for more foundation garments that they are expanding their lines, including the addition of Spanx, an undergarment brand that has been a recent sensation in America and is a much coveted item among Hong Kong’s taitais, the wealthy, figure-conscious wives who travel to the United States.

A “large” size in Hong Kong is roughly a standard size 6 in the United States. And train stations, Chinese magazines and television are flooded with ads for slimming programs and potions, with the media promoting a slender, girlish shape as the ideal.

“In Hong Kong, ladies don’t like fat. Asian women, even when they are skinny, think they are fat,” says Pat Ma, founder and managing director of the My Heart Lingerie brand, which is popular in Hong Kong.

A worry which My Heart Lingerie certainly plays upon at their website.

My Heart Lingerie
The article continues:

Penny Wang, a Beijing advertising executive, recently bought her first figure-shaping body suit. She said that many of her friends use such constricting underwear so she wanted one, too.

Wang, 30, admits she only wears her body suit only on special occasions, like parties. “It really makes my waist smaller and my chest look bigger,” she said.

Seems sensible, even if she might be a “Large” size 6… I suppose the matter of a size 6 being large is relative to the general population. It’s like when my sister’s 5 foot 5 inches (not the tallest woman in our family) was considered tall during her visit to Hong Kong. She was literally “head and shoulders” above the rest of those in elevator with her. (She was naturally taller everywhere, but the elevator visual is quite visually amusing to me.)

Also mentioned in the article is Bonluxe, “a lingerie brand whose bodysuits typically cost around 3,700 Hong Kong dollars, or $470, making it one of Hong Kong’s most expensive underwear choices.”

Interestingly, as I searched for link to the companies mentioned, I discovered this post by Louis Lau on a bone-head Bonluxe marketing move:

Bonluxe, the shape-up lingerie, is being promoted at Park’n Shop where you can enjoy attractive price offers with enough stamps collected at Park’n Shop. Well, you would appreciate the thinking : Who are the frequent supermarket shoppers ? Middle-aged working/non-working housewives. As being middle-aged, they probably need this kind of shape-up lingerie to look good. Let’s catch them where they shop ! The thinking is perfectly logical. But look, there is one important factor to consider : image fit. It’s silly to promote expensive image-driven lingerie at a place where consumers buy their groceries.

That certainly doesn’t seem to make much sense to me either. Hawking elegance, exclusivity and high-quality at bargain-basement-price seekers is a waste of effort and risks diluting the brand to the point at which core customers are offended.

But back to the main point of this post.

It seems to me from reading this article and looking at all the websites involved that Asian women are seeking not-so-much ‘the skinny’ but the appeal of more curves.

You don’t need to be able to read the lingerie maker sites to understand the images, the arrows and the sculpting effects which emphasize the plumping, filling and curvaceous contrasts.

In fact, this seems so obvious to me that I’m confused by those who don’t get it — not just the fashion writer at the International Herald Tribune, but others who choose to report on Asian lingerie brands.

Here, Louis Lau again comments on Bonluxe:

Bonluxe is a brand of functional lingerie that hides your fat by wrapping it up and pushing it to the “right” place. Its target market is the mature women, probably aged 40 or above, who are too lazy to do exercises or finds it to expensive/time-consuming to go to slimming houses. It just provides a quick-fix solution to them. The positioning is clear enough. However, I wonder why it launches a low-waist underwear. Obviously it tries to capture the trend of low-waist trousers by offering a match. The thing is if you have a big belly and try to wear a pair of low-waist trousers, this wouldn’t help at all as it doesn’t wrap up your belly. (Of course if you have the same figure as the the model in the print ad, it doesn’t matter what you wear.) A useless product that doesn’t match with the brand positioning …

Aside from his misogynistic comments about fat, lazy women (:grrrr:), he fails to see that the woman who is looking at Bonluxe shapers isn’t so much worried about slimming as she is wishing she had a more curvaceous bottom. Hence the desire to find a shaper which allows her to wear the low-riding hip-huggers, baring her midriff, as she contrasts her waistline with the feminine swell of hips.

A-Duh.

For more on lingerie shopping in Hong Kong, see Hip Honk Kong.

For more on lingerie business in Asia, see Fibre2Fashion’s piece on the Hong Kong Symposium of Intimate Apparel.

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