Think attractive ladies’ underwear and perhaps that which first comes to mind is Victoria’s Secret. Yet, the real secret in China is that fully 60 percent of the country’s lingerie production is to be found in a once-impoverished county in our very own Jiangsu Province, and that it is all thanks to one young man.
Like many a teenage boy, Lei Congrui spent a little too much time thinking about lingerie. Yet, in Rui’s case, it was not the contents of such couture that interested him; it was their financial value.
Aged 15, Lei was helping out his mother with her online shop on Taobao, selling adult health-care products. He discovered that he found doing business to be quite interesting. In a profile of the now multi-millionaire, written by Tan Yibai and published by The Paper, Lei said, “Selling things online is like playing a game. Show stuff off; people turn up to make a deal”.
A 90s boy, Lei studied law at university. After enrollment, each student was asked to introduce themselves and talk about their ideals. Lei was the last one to go on stage, when upon he said, “I don’t have any ideals. I like to make money. My ideal is to earn ¥1 million before the age of 25”. Little did Lei know then how pessimistic his teenage dream had been. By the end of that first year in university, he would have earned more than ¥1 million.
Nothing but pragmatic, Lei revealed the not-so-complicated, saucy secrets of his fortune, saying, “Lingerie is simpler, has higher profits, and doesn’t have the quality problems of other adult products, such as condoms. That’s it”.
Guangyun County falls under the jurisdiction of Lianyungang in northeast Jiangsu. With a population of just one million, and Lei’s business bringing in an annual income of up to ¥50 million, it is safe to say that lingerie has set many a local resident’s pulse racing. They work for Lei in his “garment factory”; in the beginning, this was the only description Lei could use that would make people prepared to work for him.
Now that has all changed, with lingerie being a hot topic of conversation. Over 400 people are employed in Lei’s factory, many of them middle-aged women. Lei’s mother has also not lost her touch and feel for the trends in the industry, working for her son as Creative Director. As long as she thinks a garment is good-looking, it will be a red-hot product. “I don’t know why she has that vision. It may be a woman’s intuition”, says Lei.
Many of the lacy, racy objects of desire produced in Guangyun County are destined for overseas, endowing Lei with great insight into market differences. Somewhat matter of factly, and without even a hint of political correctness, he stated, “The Chinese are still relatively conservative. For example, black and white are the preferred colours. In many foreign countries, people like red and purple; bright colours. Africans like to be cheap, while Europeans and Americans like big sizes”.