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Wardrobe organizing businesses in China surge by 400 percent in lockdown

The discovery of a Burberry jacket she does
not recall buying proved to Chen Rui that she was right to have brought in
experts to manage her out-of-control luxury wardrobe.

“How did you find this?” the 32-year-old asked the crack team of “home
organisers” who unearthed the jacket from a heap of clothes pulled from her
closet in a slick Beijing apartment.

China’s breakneck growth over the past four decades has led to a surge in
conspicuous spending, with the newly monied lavishing cash on coveted labels
to emboss their status.

A third of all luxury spending globally is by Chinese consumers, according
to McKinsey’s 2019 China Luxury Report.

So far the pandemic appears not to have dulled their desires but “Single’s
Day” on November 11, the world’s biggest shopping day, will be closely watched
for an idea about the state of Chinese consumer sentiment.

In the era of the couch-shopper, however, there is also a downside to
chasing fashion.

Housewife Chen says her walk-in closet, which brims with brands from Louis
Vuitton and Chanel to Prada and Gucci, used to cause frequent arguments with
her husband.

“I never abandon any of my collection, I just add to it,” the former art
teacher admitted, saying she just loves to indulge. “I see no need to restrict
myself.”

So in desperation, she hired a four-strong team of home organisers to
rescue her wardrobe.

The experts in smart black uniforms whisk around her high-end apartment,
emptying more than a thousand pieces of clothing and dozens of luxury handbags
from her closet.

The team is led by Yu Ziqin, one of thousands of graduates from a
home-organising school called Liucundao, which teaches the art of bringing
order to the chaos of China’s rich shoppers.

School founder Bian Lichun said there were now more than 3,000
professionals in the emerging industry, which state broadcaster CCTV has
projected could reach 100 billion yuan (14.9 billion dollars) this year in terms of
market turnover.

Closet organization businesses surge during lockdown

During the pandemic, Bian says business boomed up to 400 percent as
people spent more time at home scouring the internet and assessing where to
put all their new acquisitions.

Home organiser Han Yonggang says his clients — who pay upwards of 2,000 dollars each for a process that can take a couple of days — usually have annual
income exceeding one million yuan a year.

“I’m earning more than I did when I was a graphic designer,” Han explains.

But unlike the advice of Japanese guru Marie Kondo — whose world-famous
decluttering ethic has inspired millions to tidy up — Bian and her team never
persuade clients to throw things away, or ask them to buy less.

Instead, they teach “the way to retain”, Bian says, through storage and
canny design — such as extra-thin coathangers.

“There is nothing useless in the world.”

Bian founded her company ten years ago after seeing a gap in the market for
the upwardly mobile classes.

“People used to think that we are cleaners — but now they respect us very
much,” Bian says of what is now seen as an essential service to some of their
clients.

“We even know how many pairs of underwear they have… and we have created
a good life for them.”

E-commerce and mobile commerce have also turbocharged spending habits.

The transport ministry says the number of express packages delivered per
person in China this year will be nearly 60 — about twice the global average.

Liu Wenjing, from the school of economics and management at Tsinghua
University, says e-commerce has created a culture of “online shopping at any
time and anywhere”.

But Bian argues the issue is not one of over-consumption or the psychology
of spending, but more about the challenge of finding somewhere to hoard
clothes in China’s densely populated cities.

“Our aim is to sort out space, not fix people,” she said.(AFP)

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