Think earth-toned safari jackets, multi-pocket vests, cargo pants and drawstring bucket hats. It’s the typical mood board for the mainland’s latest buzzword, “山系穿搭 (mountain style outfits)” or #mountaincore. A look that mixes utilitarian camping-inspired clothing with urban chic, mountaincore is the latest manifestation of the outdoor boom in hip, young China.
Although the term already existed in the early 2010s to describe Japan’s urban outdoor trend “Yama Style”, #mountaincore hadn’t reached the mainstream until COVID-19 prompted millions of young Chinese to switch their holidays hiking and camping in the nearby mountains instead of traveling abroad. . As a result, searches for “glamping” jumped 623% year-over-year in April 2022, according to Xiaohongshu. A recent report from the platform also listed #mountaincore life (山系生活) as one of the top ten emerging lifestyle trends in 2022.
Today, Xiaohongshu’s #mountaincore hashtag is filled with over 30,000 users showing followers how to combine utilitarian shirts, stretch jeans, logo caps and technical sandals to create looks that could be at home. camping weekends while strolling through the city’s coolest neighborhoods. Often mixed with streetwear fare and an asexual attitude, mountain fashion resembles the ideal self of many young Chinese: nature-loving, relaxed and free.
“COVID is definitely a strong motivator for the rise of mountaincore,” says Xingya Chen (@xinyaya), an outdoor fashion blogger on Xiaohongshu. “Travelling abroad is still far from possible. Even traveling through provinces inside China can be difficult, as we never know where the next lockdown will hit. Nature camping is therefore becoming popular as it allows people to relax while keeping a safe distance from others.
Fashion has become the natural by-product of mainstreaming outdoor living trends. “When this started a year or two ago, most of the community only knew of the big brands like Timberland, Patagonia, Arc’teryx, or at best some insiders might talk about North Face’s Purple label,” says Chen. “Today the discussion is much more sophisticated. Camping leaders will talk about the technical differences between Scandinavian, American and Japanese professional camping equipment. Outdoor groups will do professional reviews of hiking sneakers. People are more informed and more demanding now.
The pandemic-accelerated outdoor boom is having ripple effects, as young Chinese city dwellers seek new ways to engage with nature, driving store expansions and brand launches. ABC Camping Country, a camping lifestyle collective store founded in 2020, has since rapidly expanded to five Chinese cities, selling high-end gear ranging from tents from Snowpeak and dining sets from Barebones to accessories outdoor fashion brand from Kavu. In Shanghai, a wave of glamping gear stores like Outland, Element Outdoor, and Mountropolitan exploded post-2020 to sell lifestyle products that are both travel-ready and street-friendly.
“Chinese young consumers are more aware of the general aesthetic aspect of things than the actual activities that have made the culture what it is, and they treat some of the activities such as Frisbee, flag football and camping as accessories to enhance their image and to socialize with others,” said Jun Chan, founder of Chinese outdoor media outlet Mounster. Daily Jing. “But it’s also a good way to attract others’ attention to participate, and many of them get excited about the culture and start cultivating their own brands of the 山系 (mountaincore) lifestyle.”
An emerging host of local names have since tapped into young consumers’ need to incorporate aspects of the trend into everyday fashion statements. Mountain Fever, a Guangzhou-based camping fashion line founded in 2018, makes active streetwear such as adjustable nylon skirts, multi-pocket vests and packable windbreakers. Army Logic, a Shenzhen-based menswear outfit, specializes in stylish, versatile apparel that blends Chinese heritage designs with performance fabrics.
As a lifestyle extension of the outdoors boom, mountaincore responds to the growing demand from local youth to include outdoor elements in all aspects of their lives. On screen, the mountain aesthetic continued to infiltrate entertainment content. In 2021, two popular reality TV shows, star hunter and I spoke of you in the springbegan featuring celebrities as they camped and traveled through the Chinese countryside.
The growing interest in the outdoors is also reflected in commercial spaces. Yanwai, a fine-dining restaurant in Shanghai, offers its customers tasting plates in a glamping setting furnished with camping furniture and high-end cutlery. Shopping malls in first-tier cities held “mountain lifestyle festivals” to bring tents, camping chairs and plants to attract young consumers. Since last year, a growing number of luxury houses, from Gucci to Prada, have embraced the outdoor craze by opening nature-themed pop-ups.
For businesses, the rise of mountaincore proves that outdoor culture, already relevant to the domestic youth market, will continue to grow and expand to reach more lifestyle areas beyond fashion. “Brands that can satisfy growing consumer demand in their daily routine will attract a stable fan base. Consumers are not only looking for products that can showcase their fashion sense, but are versatile and also match their eco-friendly philosophies,” observes Jun Chan from Mounster.
To further harness the social momentum of #mountaincore, labels should explore collaborations and product opportunities to highlight adaptability – an essential trait for consumers looking to move between forests and streets. For China’s expanding outdoor enthusiasts, the concept of nature goes beyond wilderness. Instead, it’s a state of mind.