The surprising way Yabi merges subculture with mainstream fashion for China’s Gen Z – bridging the gap between niche and mainstream

Peng He China Market Analysis

The term Yabi (亚比) refers to hardcore subculture advocates who incorporate its aesthetics into their daily lifestyle, especially in fashion. Inspired by subcultures like punk, goth, hippie, grunge, and cyberpunk. 78.6% of Yabi audience is from Gen Z.

Yabi’s rise in the fashion domain marks a transformative phase with a remarkable 436% increase from Q4 2022 to Q4 2023. It’s redefining the concept of daily wear, merging the distinctiveness of niche subcultures with the accessibility of mainstream fashion in an innovative blend that’s fresh and familiar.

Summary insights

  • Yabi represents a significant cultural shift in China’s urban youth, moving from fringe to mainstream, as demonstrated by a 436% increase in its popularity from Q4 2022 to Q4 2023.
  • Gen Z is the driving force behind Yabi, with 78.6% of its audience belonging to this demographic.
  • The community is seeing a maturation, with a shift towards a more refined elegance within the Yabi style, suggesting an evolution in its aesthetic direction.
  • The style is deeply rooted in subcultures like punk and goth, reflecting a blend of rebellion and individuality in fashion choices.
  • Brands like New Rock and Balenciaga are effectively tapping into the Yabi trend, showcasing the commercial potential of aligning with subculture-driven fashion.
  • Yabi’s adaptability has enabled it to bridge the gap between niche and mainstream, making it attractive for both premium and luxury brands.

The analysis is empowered by Doris, WalktheChat In-house A.I. Social Listening Tool

Yabi is crafting a new narrative in China’s fashion scene via an intense, cutting-edge style, imbued with a spirit of rebellion and individuality.

Yabi’s rise in China encapsulates a transformative journey from being a contentious label to an accepted symbol of youth rebellion and lifestyle liberty

Initially perceived negatively, Yabi has undergone a perceptual revolution, led by the Gen Z demographic, to emerge as a beacon of individualistic fashion and self-expression. This evolution of Yabi reflects a broader societal shift towards embracing diverse identities and personal freedoms through style.

We’re not just creating clothes; we’re crafting a rebellion. It’s for the Yabiout there – the bold, the brave, the ones who don’t just step over lines but redraw them entirely. Gender-neutral isn’t a trend for us; it’s a manifesto. This brand is our shout into the void, echoing back as the voice of a new generation.

– Zikon, Founder of Yabi brand ZIKONCHEN

For young Chinese indie designer brands that emerged from the heart of this vibrant youth culture, many of them naturally resonate with the Yabi aesthetic: edgy and forward.

Diving into the heart of Yabi’s influence, we encounter ZIKONCHEN, a brand challenging norms and advocating for a bold, gender-neutral future in fashion. Through ZIKONCHEN’s lens, we see a canvas where each piece is a statement, a call to the brave and the audacious to redraw the lines of fashion and identity.

Yabi is gradually reshaping urban China’s fashion scene, with 78.6% of its audience from Gen Z, and women representing 83.2% of this group. Predominantly present in major urban centers like Guangzhou, Chengdu+Chongqing, Hangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing, Yabi is also synonymous with an expressive rave culture that blends music with distinct fashion sensibilities.

Yabi aesthetics also invigorates niche retail, as boutique stores specializing in unique, edgy fashion finds thrive, catering to the distinct tastes of the Yabi community.

The essence of Yabi lies in its diversity, drawing from a spectrum of subcultural styles—from Y2K’s nostalgic touches to Punk’s defiance, Goth’s mystique, and the avant-garde edge of Futuristic designs. These influences interlace to form a dynamic mosaic, reflecting the eclectic nature of its adherents. More than just fashion, Yabi is a manifestation of artistic expression, capturing the bold creativity and spirit of a generation poised to redefine the boundaries of style.

Our dialogue with Kira, a Gen Z fashion influencer, reveals that the Yabi aesthetics is much more than just clothing—it’s a personal narrative, a visual language of self-exploration and expression. Each outfit is a testament to the wearer’s unique journey, a tangible illustration of their evolving identity crafted with deliberate intention and artistry.

My journey with Yabi is evolving, from loud and proud to subtle and refined.It’s not just fashion; it’s the art of personal evolution, where every accessory I choose tells the tale of who I am becoming.

– Kira, influencer

Furthermore, there might also be an internal discernible shift in its aesthetic direction among the Yabi audience. The community, once known for its bold and outspoken sartorial choices, is now also embracing a more refined elegance. This subtle yet significant change signals a maturation within the Yabi style, as its audience seeks to harmonize the vibrancy of their youth with a polished sophistication that still retains the essence of their original defiance.

Top featured brands that resonate with the Yabi style include New Rock, celebrated for its gender-neutral and cutting-edge designs; Balenciaga, which dominates the handbag realm with its standout creations; Vivienne Westwood, a name synonymous with avant-garde jewelry; Rick Owens, commanding attention from the male Yabi demographic with its bold designs; and Jean Paul Gaultier, whose artistic and iconic print designs have become a hallmark of the Yabi aesthetic. 

Each brand plays a pivotal role in the Yabi narrative, offering more than mere fashion statements; they provide distinctive pieces that echo the individualistic ethos and creative spirit.

Yabi style stands as a testament to a well-rounded and holistic approach to fashion, deeply interwoven with the culture’s core values and identity. 

The essence of Yabi is most evident in its apparel, which captures 46% of conversation within the community, serving as the backbone of this distinctive aesthetic. Beyond clothing, it extends to accessories and jewelry, which are more than mere embellishments; they are integral for personal expression, allowing wearers to inject their narrative into their look. Complementary elements such as handbags, and shoes are not afterthoughts but are carefully selected to enhance and complete the Yabi ensemble, ensuring a coherent narrative from head to toe. 

Each piece selected is a building block of a larger story, one that is told with every curated outfit that embodies the unique spirit of the Yabi aesthetic.

Balenciaga and Vivienne Westwood are at the forefront of the Yabi style, each brand infusing its unique design elements that speak directly to the Yabi community. 

Vivienne Westwood’s jewelry collection is a treasure trove of rebellion, with motifs and punk-inspired elements that resonate with those seeking to express their individuality and connection to the Yabi ethos. Balenciaga’s handbags merge utility with statement-making aesthetics, featuring bold metal hardware and leather whipstitching that harmonize with the Yabi style’s edgy and distinct look.

New Rock, the Spanish footwear brand, is making waves in the Yabi community with its signature metal designs that are as bold as they are unique.

Embracing a genderless ethos, New Rock’s boots are known for their chunky silhouettes and versatile style, offering a unisex appeal that transcends traditional fashion boundaries. Their distinctive metal details, from metallic buckles to bullet accents and blade-like embellishments, are visually striking and emblematic of the bold and adventurous spirit which fits well with Yabi style.


Yabi’s rise from subculture niche to mainstream reflects a bold shift in China’s fashion scene, driven by the daring Gen Z. This movement is more than just style; it’s a declaration of individuality and rebellion. As Yabi blends with luxury and premium brands, it challenges fashion norms, showing how subcultures can redefine what’s trendy. This evolution proves fashion’s dynamic nature and the significant role youth play in shaping its future, making Yabi a symbol of change and innovation in the global fashion landscape.

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