2018-03-26 09:19:44 China Today
French designers currently live in Beijing, Pierre-Yves Babin and Amelie Peraud, jointly founded a children’s wear brand Tang’ Roulou. With the broadcast of the popular TV show “Where Is Daddy?” the brand has become popular owing to the recommendation of young stars in the show.
A Chinese Brand
Pierre-Yves first came to China in 1999, and decided to settle down in Beijing in 2005. Twelve years of life in a hutong has enabled him to speak Mandarin Chinese fluently, and he has even acquired a Beijing accent. Pierre-Yves enjoys his hutong life very much, “We have a beautiful courtyard, and several cats are our regular visitors. When the autumn comes, neighbors collect the fallen leaves together. It’s just like living in the countryside. People can find a quiet seclusion in a hutong from the din of a metropolis like Beijing. Living in a hutong can also help people find a balance in life. Because you have to meet a lot of people during work, coming back to the hutong you suddenly find a sense of peace. The huge contrast makes you feel like you just time traveled.”
Although he has not received any professional training in clothing design, Pierre-Yves has a strong interest in it. In Beijing, Pierre-Yves met Amelie, a French girl who shares the same love for fashion design. Amelie started making children’s clothing as early as 2004. In the beginning, Amelie just wanted to send some special gifts with Chinese elements to her pregnant French friends. Her distinctive Chinese-style kids’ wear items immediately captivated her friends.
Out of the same love of the hutong culture and the Chinese style, the two French natives began their cooperation and founded the brand Tang’ Roulou in 2007. Pierre-Yves said, “Back then, I was keen on starting my own business, so Amelie’s plan intrigued me immediately. Then I quit my job and devoted myself to building our own brand. We chose the name Tang’ Roulou because it has a similar pronunciation of Chinese Tang-hulu (a traditional Chinese snack with caramelized fruits pierced by bamboo skewers). We wanted to have a local expression since almost all our designs have been inspired by traditional Chinese cultural elements. Despite a Chinese name, it can be pronounced easily by French people.”
Pierre-Yves and Amelie often travel to different places of China including Gansu, Sichuan, Guizhou, Yunnan, and Fujian to find new inspiration for their designs from local traditional crafts. They also bring back samples of local cloth. “Some people think of Tang’ Roulou as a French brand or a Chinese-French brand. But in my view it’s a pure Chinese brand. Our inspiration comes from Chinese culture, and our fabrics are all made in China,” Pierre Yves told China Today.
A young star dressed in a Tang’ Roulou outfit at a children’s wear festival.
Tang’ Roulou’s workshop is located in Beijing, and all its products are made in the city’s small factories. For each design, the two designers only produce dozens of products, thus all their clothing items are limited editions. Each year, they introduce two lines, each including around 30 items. Pierre-Yves and Amelie are both designers and managers of the brand.
The sewing handicrafts made by elderly women in Beijing’s hutongs have also greatly inspired Pierre-Yves and Amelie. “These aunties are all sewing masters!” Pierre-Yves said. The hutong sewing style can be detected in almost every item of Tang’ Roulou.
Tang’ Roulou’s works are a perfect integration of Chinese styles and Western designs. Pierre-Yves explained, “The integration is a natural process. Being French, Amelie and I have both been influenced by the retro style once popular in the 1980s, so many details of our works have the trace of French handmade customized clothing. Meanwhile, we also add our favorite Chinese elements to our designs. Some qipaos, or cheongsam, a close-fitting woman’s dress with high neck and slit skirt, are mainly Chinese style; some designs feature a French style complemented with Chinese elements, like traditional Chinese-knot buttons, making the work both modern and traditional.”
In a handicraft workshop organized by the French Alliance (Alliance Française), Pierre-Yves Babin teaches children French and how to design clothes.
“Now kids around the world all wear similar clothes. Chinese and French kids wear the same T-shirt, pants, and shoes.” Pierre-Yves intends to offer distinctive and comfortable outfits for kids. “China has traditional garment styles and excellent craftsmanship. This is fabulous. In China there are some online or physical stores selling traditional Chinese-style kids’ wears, most of which aren’t suitable for daily wear. Some strikingly bright-colored clothes items are only proper for the Spring Festival. However, our products are for daily wear,” Pierre-Yves said.
Every item of Tang’ Roulou has a cute name. “Yangguifei” (Lady Yang, a Tang Dynasty belle) is a soft and light mini qipao, featuring a loose and comfortable design. “Baibaipangpang” (literally meaning fair-skinned and chubby) is a red waistcoat with a fancy three-dimensional design. “Shanghai’s Winter” is a tweed skirt. “Tender Bud” is a tennis skirt made from flower-patterned fabric matched with Chinese-knot buttons. Every item has a story, and each design features a unique set of traits. Pierre-Yves said, “They all have simple names, easy for kids to remember.”
Tang’ Roulou is like a child personally raised by Pierre-Yves and Amelie. “We started from a very small store, with no sufficient funds and no investors. We developed it all on our own.” Pierre-Yves indicated that Tang’ Roulou plans to introduce more lines including adult clothes in the future. They will also try new types of fabric, like wool and cashmere.
Resorting to Internet Plus
Tang’ Roulou’s workshop recently moved to a new location as its business continues to expand. With China’s one child policy eased two years ago, and Chinese parents spending more and more on child-related products, the children’s wear market has huge growth potential.
Data from the National Bureau of Statistics show that the population aged 0-14 reached 230 million in 2016 with a year-on-year increase of 1.29 percent. A colossal market for children’s products has come into being. According to a report on development analysis and prediction of the Chinese children’s wear market from 2017 to 2022, the market has seen stable growth on the whole with its overall scale climbing to RMB 145 billion in 2016. It’s predicted that by 2021, the children’s wear market will reach RMB 196.78 billion.
Tang’ Roulou’s marketing model is closely associated with Internet Plus. In 2011, the brand registered its microblog account, and as of now has gathered more than 20,000 fans; it also started its online store on China’s shopping website taobao.com. Now, the brand’s online sales volume already outweighs that of its physical stores.
Tang’ Roulou also pays a lot of attention to customer feedback via the Internet. “Taobao is a very popular Chinese online shopping platform with a safe business environment. Consumers can easily find our store on Taobao,” Pierre-Yves said.
Tang’ Roulou has participated some offline activities organized by Taobao. As one of the 108 most creative Taobao stores selected by the online platform, Tang’ Roulou got the chance to hold an exhibition in Hangzhou in 2017. It was also invited to an Asia children’s wear festival sponsored by Taobao in August 2017, and outfitted young models with their clothes for the show. Groups of kids aged 5-6, dressed in Tang’ Roulou’s Chinese-style garments with tanghulus, balloons, and dolls in their hands, strutted the stage, receiving a warm welcome from the audience.
Online marketing has also changed Tang’ Roulou’s client composition. In the past, the shares of their foreign and local Chinese clients were equal, but now the proportion of Chinese clients has soared to 80 percent. Pierre-Yves said, “After our online store opened, our Chinese clients have increased sharply. Actually most online clients are Chinese. In France, the many existing children’s wear brands have brought fierce market competition. However, in China, Tang’ Roulou is still one of the first traditional Chinese-style children’s wear brands. This is just the beginning.”