Yet they provide the inspiration needed for a sustainable fashion future

Weddings have become so integral to Chinese tradition that the tiny area in Tiger Hill in Suzhou has become the center of China’s wedding gown business, producing as high as 80 percent of the world’s wedding dresses. The growth of the wedding dress industry is fuelled by a new breed of Chinese brides and grooms who are not just conscious of their brand but also reliant on it.

In a period where sustainability has become a primary aim for the clothing industry, this is a cause for concern. There are issues with fashion that are seen everywhere in the globe, ranging from waste when it comes to production to low-quality products made from low-quality synthetic materials, which are exacerbated. Wedding dresses are an appropriate symbol of the horror of the fashion industry. It is usually an extremely expensive piece that is only worn one time.

However, despite the growing rampant consumption that is evident in Chinese wedding gowns, China does offer some glimpses that provide hope to a global as well as an industry that is increasingly concerned about sustainability.

Tiger Hill

Suzhou is a city in China. Suzhou has been recognized across China for its silk- and embroidery production. However, as the wedding ceremony culture of contemporary China developed, the Tiger Hill Bridal Market has grown: initially, as an important location to host wedding photo studios, then as a site for equipment and studios in the later stages, then as a center for the production of wedding dresses and their distribution. It is located just 100m from one of Suzhou’s most renowned tourist spots, Tiger Hill ( Hu Qiu in Chinese) has evolved into a treasure trove of beads, lace, and taffeta.

The shops located in Tiger Hill offer every kind of image of what a wedding dress can be, such as a Han Dynasty dream gown to a white or red princess-style gown, to replicas of gowns that royal brides have worn. Although many stores are geared towards private clients, wholesalers who sell dresses through online platforms constitute a significant part of the market’s customers.

Like many other districts in China has seen rapid changes since the start of the millennium. It was driven by a growing number of consumers who have a rising disposable income and wedding budgets. Tiger Hill Wedding Market is the best place to purchase dresses for your wedding in China and around the world on. Brides can search for dresses in every price point, ranging between Y=100 and Y=100,000 (approximately PS9-PS9,000).

Shopping for dresses in Tiger Hill. (c) Sara Sterling, Author provided

However, a major distinction among Suzhou with other bridal dress shops is the emergence of a rental culture which is similar to the Western custom of renting suits and tuxedos for groomsmen and groomsmen.

It’s a remnant of the pre-Deng Xiaoping era prior to the late 1970s where extravagant consumption habits were just not feasible. In addition, with only three dresses required for the Chinese wedding, It’s no reason why renting has remained a popular option.

Multiple dresses

In the UK as well as other Western countries, it’s increasingly popular that brides wear two different versions of their bridal gown on their wedding day, with one for the ceremony and the second for the reception at night, made with comfort and the ability to dance.

However, in China, brides can wear more than five wedding dresses. Although two or perhaps three dresses might have been common in past decades however, the number of dresses has risen since the past few years. Brides who are perfect for China has multiple dimensions, with dresses that reflect not just various aspects of the wedding’s schedule as well as different aspects of self. From a well-fitting and hand-embroidered Qi pao or a lavish cream-colored or white dress that is reminiscent of the times of Marie Antoinette, Brides want to showcase themselves in a variety of ways throughout their wedding day.

There’s one for the morning when the bride is taken to her groom following a series of verbal contests and games. There’s one for the entry to the banquet hall and arrival, and another to be used for the wedding ceremony. Another one is for the sequence of toasts while the couple moves around the numerous tables of happy guests and red packet-givers and maybe even a third dress to wear for the closing hours of the party.

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