The middle class is growing fast in China. Nowadays people are focusing more and more on how they can penetrate the Chinese market, rather than finding cheap manufacturing.
It’s important that you are up-to-date as the market changes quickly, not only due to the fact that the Chinese find most of their products online, but also due to a stronger appreciation of foreign brands.
A product that gets increasingly popular is clothing. If you only sell locally, in the European or the American market, you’ll miss a lot of opportunities to earn decent profits in the Chinese market.
In this guide International Fashion Fair explains all the essentials you need to know if you plan to sell clothes in China.
Why would China import clothing and textiles from overseas?
Some of you might wonder if there’s really a market, exporting clothes to China. My answer is: Yes.
Previously, the Chinese went to local stores, or even fake markets buying clothes, as these were the choices they had. Slowly, bigger brands like H&M, Zara and Uniqlo set up physical stores in China.
Nowadays, you rarely find any Chinese going to the local stores or ‘fake markets’, buying clothes, as many foreign brands, like H&M and Uniqlo, cost equally much.
Even if wealthy Chinese appreciate more high-end brands like Gucci, LV and Hugo Boss, many people can’t afford these clothes and look for cheaper brands.
Some examples are: Daniel Wellington watches (I see a couple of them everyday here in Asia), Fjällräven backpacks (popular among girls, see them everywhere in Asia), Fred Perry piquets and Nike shoes.
Importance of branding
Branding is very important in China, and many countries have a brand in themselves.
Saying that a skirt is from Japan, or a skin lotion from Korea, will in most cases make the sale significantly easier.
In the coming years, you’ll see more and more Chinese buying small or medium sized brands, like Cheap Monday or Nudie Jeans, that we have in Sweden.
Do I need to comply with any regulations when exporting clothes to China?
The CCC mark is not required for clothes exported into the Chinese market, however, bear in mind that I’m talking about fashion & apparels now.
(If you’re planning to export, for example, clothes to be worn by firefighters, in the medical industry or similar, other regulations might apply).
Even if clothing is exempt from having the CCC mark, you still need to follow the Chinese national GB standard that applies to textiles and clothing.
The GB standards (called Guobiao) literally mean ‘national standards’ and assures that your products meet requirements related to:
Fortunately, the GB standards don’t differ much from those in the west, as they are often derived from ISO – standards.
Also, 85% of all GB standards are voluntary (!) while only 15% are mandatory. You can recognize whether a standard is mandatory by looking at the code:
GB/T: Voluntary standard
GB/Z: Guiding technical document
So: if your products are already compliant and sold in Europe or the US, you’ll most likely not have any issues to obtain the paperwork needed.
Before you start exporting to China, it’s important to make sure that your products meet the GB standards required.
What GB-standards are used for textiles?
Some examples of GB standards used for textiles and apparels are:
GB 5296.1: Is a safety standard that is used for a wide range of products
GB 20400-2006: For leather and fur – for limits of harmful hatter
GB 18401-2010: Technical code for textile Products
GB 5296.4-2012: Explains how a product should be used
GB/T 2666: Women’s and men’s trousers
GB/T 2660: Shirts
Be sure to contact an agent who can assist you to make sure which GB standards your specific products need to follow.
FZ-standards for clothes and textiles
Even if clothing, apparels and textiles are less regulated, compared to food and electronic products for example, there are voluntarily quality standards that exporters wish to follow.
In a branding sensitive world, especially in China, products can see a huge boost in sales, if these are highlighted as organic or ecological.
Some of FZ-standards used for textiles and clothing are:
FZ/T 01053: For fiber content
FZ/T 81004: Skirts
FZ/T 81006: Jeans
FZ/T 81008: Jackets
Register your trademark (brand) in China
You should definitely consider registering your trademark in China. I won’t discuss this in detail as I’ve written a separate article on the subject.
China is a “first-to-file” country which means that if you don’t register your trademark, someone else can, and probably will, do it.
That means, the first person who files for the trademark will get all the rights related to that trademark.
What a nightmare, right?
It costs around USD 500 to register a trademark, a cost that is negligible compared to a scenario where you no longer have the rights of your brand in China.
Your company will probably be based outside China, hence, hiring a Chinese lawyer or agent will be a must when registering the trademark.