Jing Daily’s monthly Chinese Collabs column looks at the China-related collaborations and drops that are transforming the luxury landscape. From local fashion brands to C-beauty, virtual idols to NFTs, and KOLs to lifestyle and games, it offers a curated selection of what’s dropping and the trends behind them.
Many consumers like Natasha Yang, a 23-year-old college student living in Beijing, have been busy online browsing to find the perfect red-colored item: one that will bring luck in the coming Year of the Rabbit. “I’m mainly considering luxury brands because I want to buy something unique and sophisticated to celebrate my zodiac year,” says Yang.
It’s customary for fashion houses to create exclusive capsule series to celebrate Chinese New Year. “Spring festival is a season of celebration and gifting. The CNY collections naturally become a vehicle to express seasonal joy with families and friends on this occasion,” explains Amber Wu, account director at digital creative agency Qumin. And it’s worth noting that local customers generally allocate generous budgets for the occasion. “Own Year” or 本命年 — meaning the zodiac sign representing your birth year — also marks a crucial milestone for the Chinese.
“The color red and rabbit motifs are a must. If it’s limited edition or a collaboration, that’s a plus,” highlights Yang. In light of this, Gen Z-friendly maisons are leveraging the hype of tie-ups to stand out among fierce competition. Here, Jing Daily analyzes the major collaboration trends that have sprung up at the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit.
Cartoons make good collaboration partners for CNY campaigns. As Chinese zodiac signs are represented by animals, well-loved characters like Mickey Mouse offer an emotive connection to the creatures of the zodiac. This means that tapping cartoon IPs for the Year of the Rabbit is a safe bet. (See any number of cartoon depictions of bunny rabbits for something nifty and adorable.)
This year, Givenchy partnered with Disney’s Lucky Rabbit Oswald to create a “one-of-a-kind world tour” that fuses Oswald’s mischievous, high-energy spirit with the fashion and perfume house’s aesthetics. Meanwhile, Moncler teamed up with Disney blockbuster icon Roger Rabbit for a playful capsule collection that leveraged young shoppers’ sense of childhood nostalgia. The winterwear label also drafted global brand ambassador Wang Yibo for the campaign to drive traffic at its special edition launch. In total, the post garnered over four million social engagements.
Adventurous lines might even look to create new IPs. Take Max Mara, for example — this year, the Italian coat maker introduced “Max” — a determined, adventurous, and lucky rabbit — who pops up on the prints of the group’s CNY collection.
Collabs have, like all explosive trends, become a victim of their own success. Fatigue has set in. This means prioritizing quality above all, and artist partnerships allow brands to elevate their offerings with a real sense of aesthetic innovation. Products that carry a meaning beyond their usual functionality, and which justify the partnership, will be more resilient.
Luxury trunkmaker Moynat’s liaison with British artist Mark Hearld is a case in point. The two teamed up to reimagine the label’s Duo Tote Horizontal bag: taking inspiration from Chinese paper cutting (a traditional activity during the festival), Hearld and Moynat creative director Nicholas Knightly created a paper cut collage depicting two rabbits jumping and playing in a traditional English garden. It’s a stunning piece that combines not only art and leatherwork, but also the heritage of the brand and its target audience.
Such cultural relevance is vital, and homegrown talents represent a real opportunity for global labels in this regard. Scandinavian fashion house Ganni joined with independent female artist Lv Wenting to launch its limited edition Year of the Rabbit gift box. The red box, decorated with flower and rabbit motifs, contains red envelopes and a kaleidoscope (both typical of Chinese culture). The domestic consumer today is famously sophisticated and sensitive. Foreign brands need to engage — but tread carefully. In this way, China’s creatives offer a chance for luxury to prove its local knowhow while avoiding any potential for scandal.
Cross category collaboration
Besides ready-to-wear, accessories (and other unique products) can help luxury brands capture China’s attention. Either for one’s own purchase or as a gift, collectible objects are in demand. “It’s like buying a souvenir. It needs to be long-lasting, as I’d like to keep it forever,” notes aforementioned student Yang.
This appetite has led Fendi to make a second outing with the Gen Z-favored Polaroid. On December 22, the high-end house launched its red and white monogram-logoed Nano Polaroid and Photo Frame. It’s not the first time Fendi has collaborated with the iconic camera, but domestic shoppers simply cannot get enough of this partnership.
And it’s not just cameras. For many young Chinese, collectible toys — boosted by support from influencers and celebs — have replaced paintings and antiques to become their flaunted interior swag. For the Year of the Rabbit, luxury house Ports partnered with local collectible toy brand RobbiART to release a limited edition rabbit toy. The collaboration was a great success, not least because it tapped the winning formula of heritage and innovation: through a futurist aesthetics marked by the symbolism of that quintessential Chinese red. @seeustudio spoke for many netizens in a post on lifestyle app Xiaohongshu: “where can I buy it?”
Exporting Chinese culture abroad
The Spring Festival is a time for family. Relatives working far away or overseas fly back to their hometowns to celebrate the New Year together at home. These (often well-dressed) reunions make for a good family portrait.
Since the Year of the Tiger in 2021, Chinese multi-brand store Labelhood has been offering family portrait shoots at its boutiques to celebrate New Year with its clients. Last year, over 450 people took part in the initiative. Given this success, the Year of the Rabbit sees Labelhood export this tradition overseas: the retailer is launching the family portrait activation in London at the prestigious Harrods. The move clearly indicates the rise of national pride and cultural confidence among China’s brands and retailers, as well as a desire to reach out to the country’s ex-pats.
Chinese New Year is a lucrative moment for labels to drive sales and strengthen their bonds with local shoppers. But businesses do need to be wary of the growing expectations and cultural sensitivity in the market. “Collaborations are usually quite popular. But to stand out, brands still need to tell stories that resonate well with Chinese audiences,” concludes Wu. A new zodiac year offers just that. Brands should leap at the chance.
Check out Jing Daily’s weekly Collabs and Drops newsletter — a 360-degree lowdown on the world of collaboration. For more analysis on the latest collaborations, sign up here.