The monkey is everywhere this year, especially in these 35 luxury brands whose campaigns are an attempt to appeal to their Chinese audiences during the Chinese New Year shopping season. Consumer reaction to the products in China so far has been a mixed bag, but leading Chinese fashion mogul and Jing Daily columnist Hung Huang has vocalized her skepticism at the retail tradition entirely. Huang says simple “New Year spirit” would suffice when it comes to designing special-edition products for the holiday.
Many streetwear and sportswear brands increasingly popular with Chinese millennials have taken this route, choosing to opt out of the more obvious Zodiac reference and get creative with their Lunar New Year creations. Save for an awkward online interaction between Nike and its followers, these 10 labels aren’t monkeying around when striving for the cool factor.
Converse x Clot x Andy Warhol
Two words: pink bananas. This fun collaboration between Hong Kong streetwear brand Clot, Converse, and Andy Warhol provides a fresh take on the holiday symbol that’s extremely versatile. The bucket hat, t-shirts, and sneaker design doesn’t make it suddenly obvious that the collection would be part of a Chinese New Year marketing trend, but it has interesting connections to the Chinese consumer, who have been going bananas for Warhol’s work.
The must-have streetwear brand for affluent Chinese university students kept its iconic tiger, but designed it in red and gold as part of the Chinese New Year capsule collection.
Beats by Dre x James Jean
It may take a minute to truly comprehend the connection between these fairly minimalist white and gold headphones and Chinese New Year, but Taiwanese-American artist had the proverb of the three wise monkeys, “See no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil” in mind when creating the design for this Solo Wireless edition.
Reebok kept things light and airy for the year of the goat, but this year they went for a darker, more cutting-edge vision that lives up to the year of the fire monkey. The sneaker sports red accents with a black-and-white geometric pattern that supposedly was inspired by a monkey’s face, but looks like a spider web. Spider monkeys, anyone?
The timing is right for Adidas, which recently expanded in China as the demand there for sportswear and investment in healthy lifestyles continues to rise. Not one, but three shoes are a part of the brand’s festive limited-edition package: Tubular Runner, Tubular X, and Tubular Doom. Adidas’ design team went heavy on the red, only splashing a touch of gold only on the aglets and eyelets of the shoes, giving the wearer the potential for one lucky year—or, at the very least, a good run.
Nike may have indirectly suggested consumers “get fat” with its custom sneakers stamped with Chinese characters meant to deliver messages of good luck for the holiday (the company has responded, saying the design was actually created by an individual using its customization tool), but according to this Global Times columnist, that wasn’t the worst of it: “As if that wasn’t garish enough, a giant fat baby’s head from traditional Chinese paintings is on the insole. Which means I have to step on a poor baby’s head every time I put on my shoes.”
Perhaps it’s because this year is the “year of the fire monkey,” but Vans took China’s festive holiday and translated into vibrant hues of red, pink, and orange for its trifecta of sneakers. It’s an eye-catching change compared to last year’s year of the sheep collection, which were simply black and white (and sheep-appropriate). The shoes are only available at select stores, but received positive feedback from fans even outside of China on several of the release reviews.
Levi’s took on the holiday on its Malaysia website the same way it did last year—with subtlety and more emphasis on delivering hip interactive online campaigns. Unlike the Year of the Sheep, when they opted to add in red fabric detailing on their jeans, this time the brand stuck with just promoting red garments like its signature bandana in campaign images.
Naked and Famous
Where Levi’s took the simple road, Canadian denim brand Naked and Famous hired a comic book artist, Alvin Lee, to vibrantly illustrate the leather patch on its Chinese New Year edition jeans. In the spirit of the Fire Monkey, the primate in the picture is a fierce one.
The Air Jordan is back this year with the “Air Jordan 5 Low,” a black basketball shoe with red detailing and colorful graphics that represent a Chinese kite. Traditionally, kites are yet another symbol of luck in Chinese culture, replacing the importance of the monkey being a Lunar Year icon.