The monkey may have been missing from China’s annual Spring Festival Gala on state television, but there is plenty of the primate in high-end shops around the world during the Chinese New Year holiday travel period. For the past few months, luxury brands have been releasing Chinese New Year capsule collections and announcing curated selections of their products to lure Chinese shoppers during one of the most crucial seasons of the year.
For many of the fashion houses, the campaigns are part of a tradition that straddles a fine line between being on point and culturally tone-deaf, and there have been many outspoken critics of the marketing practice. Some are annoyed by brands stepping outside the boundaries of their brand story to adopt Lunar New Year symbols, while others find certain interpretations of the monkey distasteful. Still, others find the primary use of the festive and auspicious red in their collections overdone and boring.
Regardless, the sheer number of brands participating in CNY campaigns mean there’s something for just about everyone. Monkey fans will, of course, find plenty of options, ranging from the adorable to the not-so-successful “alien-like,” and there are even a few products that are designed for the traveling shopper—which there are plenty more of this year. Keep reading below for an overview of how luxury labels approached their Spring Festival designs in 2016.
The designer label that has been losing steam among Chinese consumers released a capsule collection of red-hued accessories, including pointed-toe flats and heels, handbags, wallets, and futuristic looking primate charms outfitted in gold.
This year, the watchmaker’s Petite Heure Minute watches feature a hand-painted monkey scene on an ivory enamel Grand Feu dial (right) and a monkey in gold relief against a lacquer and mother-of-pearl dial (left).
Last year, Michael Kors went for the red with a curated collection done in collaboration with Lucky Magazine and Shine by Three, but this year, the brand went a different a route with a special monkey charm to adorn handbags and wallets.
Dior’s limited-edition “Diorelita” collection featured a cartoonish monkey charm and gold jewelry with red rope chains. This one may not have been the most successful, as Xinhua noted that these items were “widely mocked” on social media.
Salvatore Ferragamo is all about silk for Chinese New Year with a line of monkey-printed ties and scarves, following its products in earlier years.
Every year, the Swiss watchmaker impresses collectors with its unique Métiers d’Art, Legend of the Chinese Zodiac series featuring the zodiac animal of the year. Devoid of hands, time is told through four windows on the sides of the watch, allowing the hand-sculpted monkey to command the center.
Inspired by Journey to the West, Vivienne Westwood’s gold pendant depicts the tale of the Monkey King imprisoned within Buddha’s palm. Despite the fact that the Monkey King is the most legendary monkey in Chinese culture, few brands were inspired to utilize the classic Chinese character in their products.
With a special-edition bottle and monkey display holder, the brand comes through with a gift for China’s whisky aficionados.
One of the most blinged-out monkeys on the list, this $325 crystal sculpture features smoked topaz crystal eyes and moroda crystal pupils.
Part of Christopher Raeburn’s Spring/Summer 2016 collection includes an orangutan backpack in what is likely a subtle nod to the Lunar New Year zodiac animal.
Diane von Furstenberg
The U.S. designer went for two red and one gold edition of its leather crossbody bag in addition to a leather monkey charm to add on some sparkle.
The watchmaker’s Altiplano Limited Edition Year of the Monkey model features a Cloisonné hand-enameled dial with an intricately painted monkey holding a peach, and takes after the style of previous years’ zodiac watches.
The Edinburgh-based luxury brand is celebrating Chinese New Year with a special holiday edition of its structured MC Nano bag. Called the Ruby MC, the bag has a special hand-drawn cartoon that hides beneath the flap.
The Italian label kept Chinese New Year designs simple, but far from subtle with leather bags in shades of deep red, oxblood, and pink.
Also embracing the bright red leather look, the American accessible luxury brand has created a special-edition collection of red charm wallets to celebrate the year of the monkey.
Following last year’s plush sheep clutch, Kate Spade went for cute factor again this year with a cartoonish monkey face faux fur beige fur crossbody bag that was promoted with a high-tech WeChat red envelope game.
The designer of cute leather bucket bags also embraced the cartoon look with a red clutch featuring colorful monkey stickers.
Cath Kidston went for a cotton clutch in the label’s signature vintage floral pattern featuring illustrated monkeys clutching bananas on a red background.
Listed on Chinese style blogger Mr. Bags’ WeChat list of Chinese New Year gifts, the monkey on Tory Burch’s handbag is sad because it didn’t get any more bananas. The brand’s special collection also features a phone case and keychain decorated with the same chimp full of expression.
Wearable tech didn’t miss the year of the monkey thanks to Apple’s contribution, a special red-banded Apple Watch that comes in silver and gold.
The monkey is the latest zodiac animal to join Chopard’s collection of handmade L.U.C XP Urushi watches, which are created with ancient Japanese lacquer art form known as urushi.
In another indirect nod to the monkey, India jewelry house Amrapali Jewels gives shoppers elegant bunches of the monkey’s superfood as part of designer Manish Arora’s gilded Eme earring collection studded with Swarovski crystals.
A gift for Chinese travelers that’s easy to fit in luggage, the special refillable gold compact ups its bling factor with a bold Swarovski crystal monkey.
Wearing red underwear on Spring Festival is supposed to bring the wearer good luck, and Evisu tapped into this tradition with red and gold monkey briefs.
Giorgio Armani Beauty has created its own special-edition facial powder, opting to engrave the zodiac animal on its “Illuminating Palette” product.
In addition to its China-inspired “Tian” collection that was rolled out right before Chinese New Year, Gucci is also offering a special-edition vintage-style monkey on jewelry and a keychain, featuring an aged gold finish and glass pearls.
This year, the brand has debuted its Limited Edition Monkey Fountain Pen, which is engraved with a special monkey emblem on its 925 sterling silver body and features a mother-of-pearl emblem on top.
Like Dior, Louis Vuitton created special-edition monkey jewelry that reportedly fell flat on social media, according to Chinese news reports. Some referred to the monkeys as “alien-like,” while Chinese web portal Netease said the gold monkey is “too creepy to look at.”
Featuring a pattern of monkeys and McQueen’s signature skull, the “flame-red” silk scarf is available on the brand’s online shop.
Following its line of Classico watches for Chinese New Year, the exclusive Swiss watchmaker is one of many to carry on its new annual tradition of creating models with zodiac figures for the holiday.
Available in both gold and clear crystal, the brand continues its “Zodiaque” line of sculptures this year.
Yves Saint Laurent
YSL’s special-edition makeup palette comes in a bright gold case inspired by traditional metalwork.
The brand’s Premier Monkey Automatic 36mm model features an 18K gold carved monkey with a diamond for an eye, while his tail winds around a 0.09-carat emerald-cut diamond at 12 o’clock.
The chocolatier goes all out again for Chinese New Year with red and gold gift sets of its classic Belgian treats.
The crystal brand compels shoppers to see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil with its line of monkey-themed sculptures and bowls.