Chinese streetwear fashion is known for its dynamic trends, but nothing has captured the hearts of the urban population quite like bubble tea bags. In just one hour during the morning rush in Shenzhen, we spotted 68 bubble tea bags, an appearance rate that can hardly be matched by any traditional bag. From urban beauties in commercial buildings to cleaning workers on the street, the bag is everywhere. Men and women alike, everyone seems to have embraced this trend.
The Allure of Bubble Tea Bags
Super Low Cost
Compared to costly branded options, the bubble tea bag seems to be the perfect fit for China’s enormous working population. These soft bags are often free gifts coming with bubble tea. Wearers don’t have to worry about them getting crushed or dirty in the subway. If the bag is damaged or outdated, just order a cup of bubble tea priced at 2 or 3 dollars, and you will get a new replacement in less than one hour!
Most bubble tea bags can carry two large bubble tea cups, which means they can accommodate a small laptop, a notebook, lunch boxes, and some keys. This capacity is just right for young workers. With waterproof and insulated designs, some bubble tea bags can even keep lunch warm and prolong the freshness of fruits in the hustle of daily commute.
With 80% of the bubble tea consumer base being females, bubble tea bags are well-designed to stimulate women’s purchase desire. Colorful like LELECHA, minimalistic like Hey Tea, bubble tea bags from different brands have covered almost all the popular styles in the Chinese streetwear.
Some brands take this connection with consumers a step further by collaborating with popular movies or games. For example, Hey Tea collaborated with the drama show “Empresses in the Palace” by designing limited-edition bags, game stickers, and special drinks.
Hey Tea “Empresses in the Palace” themed free gifts for every order
Common Brands of Bubble Tea Bags in the Chinese Streetwear
Recently, the Chinese social platform Xiaohongshu has started a trend of reviewing various bubble tea bags instead of high-end brand bags.
In the beginning, Xiaohongshu was a place to flaunt luxury brand bags, as this garnered attention and adulation. Now, the review of bubble tea bags has shifted this trend away from a sense of superiority associated with luxury goods. Young women are critiquing bubble tea bags on various aspects like durability, style, and overall sturdiness. Generally, the brands of bubble tea bags that have gained the most popularity are:
Nayuk’s packaging has become a subject of admiration and practicality. Their classic green bags are known for their sturdy construction, bright color, and thermal insulation layer. Catering to different needs, the bags come in two sizes.
The larger size can hold two to four large cups of bubble tea or accommodate lunch boxes and notebooks without a hitch. For those carrying just an umbrella and a smartphone, the small-sized bag, for a single cup of tea, proves to be highly user-friendly.
Furthermore, Nayuki invited children to create artwork for their paper bags, sparking extensive conversation and engagement around the brand. Collaborations with various artists and art galleries have also elevated their ordinary paper bags to essential handbags for white-collar workers.
Compared with Nayuki, the design of Hey Tea thermal delivery bags is more minimalistic. Adorned with their cute logo and graffiti, the classic white bag fits Chinese streetwear styles seamlessly. You can see these bags in official buildings or at picnic parties. This minimalistic style can align with different occasions.
In an innovative move recently, Hey Tea collaborated with luxury fashion house Fendi for the Fendi “Hand in Hand” Art Exhibition in Beijing. This partnership quickly generated immense popularity and even led to Hey Tea Fendi merchandise being sold at higher prices on secondary platforms.
Same as Nayuki, Hey Tea offers different size options. A single cup of Hey Tea fits snugly, making it convenient for carrying small items like an umbrella or a water bottle to the office. Those who order two cups can utilize the medium bag as a lunchbox bag for breakfast or lunch, and its secure design ensures no leaks. For four cups, Hey Tea provides large bags whose accommodation is large enough to fulfill all workers’ daily needs. However, there are comments saying the fabric of Hey Tea’s bags is not as thick as Nayuki’s.
LELECHA, a popular Chinese bubble tea brand, resonates deeply with youthful energy and happiness. Connecting with both the young and the young-at-heart, LELECHA’s design choices are rich in childlike charm. They often collaborate with beloved childhood snacks and cartoon characters like Oreos, Teletubbies, Crayon Shin-chan, etc.
On Children’s Day this year, LELECHA joined forces with the stop-motion animation “Mofy.” This partnership included new tea products, various character merchandise, and exclusive giveaways like thermal bags, embroidered patches, and cute toy hangings. The spirit of fun was palpable in each item, creating a joyful resonance with the brand’s playful ethos.
After that, the brand launched a new series called “One Punch!” marking a radical departure from the norm. Their bubble tea bags featured eye-catching images of strongmen, each expressing different emotions – from laughter to astonishment to confusion. Adding a unique twist, these strongmen were cosplayed by company executives and core employees. LELECHA also set up punching bags in 60 stores across the country, offering customers a way to relieve stress. They even provided a giant woven bag large enough to fit a person, with the Chinese slogan saying, “I’m happy. Mind your own business.”
LELECHA’s wild and whimsical approach expertly taps into the pressure points of young people’s high-stress lives. It sparks a dialogue on social platforms like Weibo, generating buzz around the brand. By seamlessly blending pop culture, nostalgia, and contemporary humor, LELECHA positions itself as an essential part of Chinese streetwear.
CHAGEE’s thermal bags are not common like the three brands’ above. Unlike its competitors that focus on bright or minimalistic packaging, CHAGEE embraces its Chinese roots in its design.
In 2022, CHAGEE collaborated with rising Chinese photographer Zhang Jiacheng. They created a new themed TV commercial (TVC) to align with the brand’s affinity for traditional culture, choosing elements like Chinese shadow puppetry and silhouette art.
Alongside the TVC, CHAGEE unveiled bag designs with shadow puppetry and silhouette themes, garnering significant acclaim. The intersection of traditional art forms with contemporary fashion enabled CHAGEE to stand out, especially in the Chinese streetwear scene.
However, in 2023, some critics pointed out that CHAGEE’s designs copied iconic bags of brands like Dior, GUCCI, and Louis Vuitton. Some even jokingly remarked that CHAGEE never runs out of new packaging as long as the big fashion brands release new products. Supporters of CHAGEE replied that the ethnic minorities in Yunnan province (CHAGEE birthplace) of China do have similar traditional patterns.
The rise of bubble tea bags in Chinese streetwear is a fascinating reflection of economic, cultural, and social dynamics. While offering a practical and trendy alternative to traditional bags, they also symbolize a shift in consumer values from luxury to accessibility. Connections with popular media and traditional Chinese culture fuel this trend, creating a fusion of the old and new. The bags’ low cost and functional designs further resonate with China’s working population, particularly young women, partially in response to economic pressures.
This evolving phenomenon exemplifies the adaptive nature of Chinese streetwear, mirroring societal changes and consumer desires. As an intersection of fashion, economy, and culture, the trend of bubble tea bags offers a unique lens to understand the complexities of contemporary Chinese life.
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