Starting from medalist sister, designer introduces China-chic into skating outfits
By Cen Ziyuan, Wang Yao

Figure skating is one of the most popular winter sports and glamorous outfits are part of the appeal. Western brands dominate the market for figure skating gear and outfits, but a Chinese designer is trying to change that. 

Zhang Yifan, the 26-year-old designer, has founded the product lines in 2018. Her first piece is a high-end design ice skating dress for a special client—her younger sister Zhang Yixuan.   

Zhang Yixuan (L) in the first dress designed by her sister Zhang Yifan (R). /CGTN

Zhang Yixuan (L) in the first dress designed by her sister Zhang Yifan (R). /CGTN

Yixuan is a figure skater. She won second place in national competitions in September, representing the city of Beijing. She has been participating in the sport since she was around four to five. 

Yifan, who is now the Head of Design at Yun Bing Wu Ji and Ice Queen, says her little sister Yixuan was a great inspiration. 

"She inspired me a lot. We grew up together. I majored in design, so I combined that with my love for my little sister," said Yixuan.  

The Chinese market is still dominated by western brands like Karisma from Italy and Bolero from Russia, while shoes and accessories are led by Edea from Italy and Jackson Ultima Skates from Canada.  

It comes as a challenge for designers like Yifan, who want to introduce Chinese elements and designs into figure skating outfits. 

"Originality is very hard to achieve. Consumers do not favor Chinese designs and products. We want to change that. We knew it would be very hard when we started, but people are more open to it now," Yifan said.

Yifan has three lines. Ice Queen for high-end costumes and performing dresses. Yun Bing Wu Ji is for training outfits with unique Chinese elements. Skating Safe is for protection gears. 

Original design works by Zhang Yixuan. /CGTN

Original design works by Zhang Yixuan. /CGTN

With the help of Yixuan, every item they have sold is tested by teammates and professional figure skaters on ice before it is put out on the market. 

"My sister got to know the sport and fell in love with it because of me. She has a degree in fashion design and says she feels great seeing me wearing the outfits she creates. I also feel very proud wearing it because my sister has designed it and spent so much time on it," Yixuan shared her thoughts with a smile on her face. 

Yifan's products are making waves on social media platforms like Douyin and the Red attracting younger consumers, as China-chic becomes a popular trend among the younger generations. 'China chic' is a term that describes the trend of China-centric designs.

Despite the challenges, their mom Yu Mingjie is proud of both her daughters. 

"They both have chosen the right careers and are doing what they love. They've made achievements and are growing in what they do," Yu shared. 

The sisters want to represent China in their way by shining as an athlete and by bringing Chinese designs to a global stage. 

Yixuan says she will dedicate her entire life to figure skating, adding: "Figure skating has become a part of me. I will be with it for the rest of my life, as an athlete, coach, referee, or anything else." 

Yifan wants to take her brands overseas and also look to expand the product lines into other sports. However, she admits Chinese designers have a long way to go in winter sportswear. 

"China-chic has been recognized globally. Made-in-China has also been recognized. We want to sell our products overseas. Some of our products have been exported to Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. We have established channels to sell our products. We will continue to expand," said Yifan. 

She hopes the upcoming Winter Olympics will encourage more Chinese designers to try their hand in winter sportswear and introduce more Chinese designs into the global market. 

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