Step aside Paris, rural Chinese farmers put on fashion catwalk to sell vegetables

·3-min read

Step aside, New York City Fashion Week. Auf Wiedersehen, Berlin Premium. A “fashion show” featuring rural Chinese women strutting in dresses made out of leaves and carrying produce has turned into a feel-good internet story in mainland China.

The video took place in Chenxi county, in the central province of Hunan, and features four women on a dirt road performing a catwalk with trance music in the background.

It starts with a woman holding a giant horn and saying, “let’s welcome our Village Flowers to come to the stage brilliantly.”

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Rural women dancing in Hawaiian grass skirts on social media were trying to revive a limp vegetable market. Photo: Hunan Today
Rural women dancing in Hawaiian grass skirts on social media were trying to revive a limp vegetable market. Photo: Hunan Today

The women then walk towards the camera, wearing their leaf dresses and carrying a harvest of vegetables – such as dozens of aubergines, bottle gourds and cucumbers – before they stamp their feet in a single-file line.

The four rural women have apparently picked up some catwalk tips, such as showing a solemn facial expression, not looking directly at the camera and slightly shaking their head while approaching the camera.

One of the farmers adopted a typical image of a Chinese farmer by wearing a straw hat and carrying two bamboo baskets with a shoulder pole.

The one-minute-long video is an attempt by the women to boost the sales of their produce.

Our organic vegetables did not sell well. So I thought of using my Douyin account to promote the vegetables.

Xu, one of the farmers who produced the video

The video was produced by a woman surnamed Xu and uploaded to her Douyin account, the mainland Chinese version of TikTok.

“The first one [walking in the row] is my mother-in-law. I am the third one. All of us belong to a big family,” she said in the video as the narrator.

“We made the clothes with leaves and the headwear with what we could find on the spot,” said Xu.

Xu said she hoped the video could help “make her life better”.

“Our organic vegetables did not sell well. So I thought of using my Douyin account to promote the vegetables,” Xu said.

One of the women used a traditional carrying tool in the video. Photo: Hunan Today
One of the women used a traditional carrying tool in the video. Photo: Hunan Today

Xu is one of tens of thousands of short video bloggers based in rural areas in China.

In the past few years, video clips with the theme of rural life have been popular among the country’s 873 million short video platform users. Li Ziqi has become one of China’s most famous internet celebrities by showcasing an idyllic version of her rural lifestyle.

Some vloggers also use live-streaming platforms to sell their agricultural products.

“Internet users use their fragmented time to watch countryside life. It has become something of a pressure relief,” Xing Yuan, a philosophy professor from Shanxi University, told state media Xinhua.

“In the countryside, there are stars, the moon, dogs barking and roosters crowing,” she was quoted as saying. “Short videos of rural life have rekindled people’s pastoral dream.”

On Douyin, commenters found the women adorable and told them that the world’s most famous fashion events should be on the watch for competition.

“I feel like I have watched the Chinese rural version of Paris Fashion Week. It’s so funny,” one user wrote.

Another said: “These rural sisters’ faces are full of the pride of harvest.”

“They are so cute. Very creative idea,” another person wrote.

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