One of the most widely celebrated holidays in the world, Chinese New Year, has established itself as more than just a day - it’s a booming season in the retail calendar. Increasing numbers of international brands are making devoted efforts for Lunar New Year, highlighting the importance of the Chinese consumer for growth.
Last year (The Year of the Dog), several international luxury brands were mocked for their ostentatious, gaudy designs and outright clichés. This may have been acceptable several years ago, but today it’s considered ‘tuhao’ aka ‘too nouveau riche’.
In many cases this year, brands seem to be learning from past mistakes, creating limited editions that feel much more aligned to their highly-tuned, discerning consumers.
We spotlight three brands: two who have nailed their limited editions and one that garnered online criticism from Chinese media, social influencers, and consumers.
1. Mr Bags x Longchamp
Following the huge success of last year’s collaboration, it came as no surprise that Longchamp would call upon influential Chinese blogger Tao Liang (better known by his online moniker, Mr. Bags) to collaborate on a second special capsule-collection.
Rewind to this time last year, the Year of the Dog capsule collection reached new milestones for both parties – within the first two hours.
This wasn’t the first time Mr. Bags has boosted sales for a luxury client. According to JingDaily, he gained recognition in 2017 when he sold 1.2million RMB for Givenchy online in less than 12 minutes. He has worked with numerous other luxury brand clients in the past, but the Longchamp collaboration was the first time he would design a full collection. It was also the first time Longchamp had worked with a Chinese blogger in this capacity.
In an interview with JingDaily, Longchamp’s general manager of China, Josephine Liang said, “In the past, Longchamp has invited celebrities or designers like Kate Moss and Jeremy Scott to develop capsule collections, these collections were successful, but the products didn’t resonate with Chinese customers. Mr. Bags provided a good resource for being able to connect directly to his bag fans and what they want.”
As a genuine bag-lover himself, Mr. Bags observes trends and analyses what works for his millions of followers. He is a key opinion leader and an integral part of China’s luxury scene.
In celebration of The Year of the Pig, Mr. Bags kept the theme playful, heroing the curly tail and ‘cute’ nose across a few simple colourways and silhouettes.
Streetwear giants, A Bathing Ape, stayed clear of all seasonal clichés – no red, gold or pigs in sight. Instead, they released a limited-edition tea set made from Zisha purple clay from China’s Yixing region.
The set features four cups and an embossed teapot, held beautifully in their signature ABC camo protective case (fodder for any hypebeast’s Instagram page).
The tea set dropped at BAPE’s Hong Kong outposts last weekend, costing $1,999HKD (just under £200), however, those who spend more than $12,000HKD (roughly £1,150) will receive the set as a limited-edition gift.
3. Burberry Fail
Burberry’s latest campaign has attracted a wave of criticism on social media from Chinese influencers and consumers who liken the campaign images to Asian horror movies.
The Burberry family portrait has been described as ‘weird, downbeat and depressing’ whilst others stated the imagery gave them goosebumps.
Chinese New Year is China’s most revered holiday – a time for family reunions, joy, and luck, but it seems Burberry’s campaign has completely missed the mark. Critics slammed the campaign, dubbing it a failure of cultural appropriation and another instance of tone-deaf Western luxury brands.
As the importance of Chinese New Year within the retail calendar grows in significance, international brands looking to resonate with the Chinese consumer must take note.
SEEN is compiled by LOVE’s Head of Culture, Kat Towers. Want to say hello, ask questions or challenge her cultural knowledge? Get in touch - firstname.lastname@example.org