A photo from Vogue China editor Angelica Cheung's Sina Weibo account of luxury brands' special red envelopes for Chinese New Year. (Sina Weibo/Angelica Cheung)
In addition to producing a massive amount of special-edition Chinese New Year luxury products, international luxury brands have embraced the upcoming holiday in a way highly specific to Chinese culture: by creating designer “red envelopes” for traditional Spring Festival gift-giving.
“Red envelopes,” or hongbao (红包) contain monetary gifts and are traditionally given during holidays and special occasions in China. The Lunar New Year and weddings are two of the most important times for hongbao giving, which usually involves married couples giving the cash-filled packages to unmarried relatives, especially children. Also known as lishi feng (利是封), or “lucky letters,” these cash-filled packages are a source of face for the giver.
“Western brands are becoming Eastern. Red envelopes are becoming prettier and prettier as they contend for supreme beauty. Which one do you like?” says Vogue China editor Angelica Cheung on her Sina Weibo account about a photo she posted showing many of this year’s envelopes. Brands such as Céline, Gucci, Fendi, Furla, Hugo Boss, Lancel, and more have created the special packages with various combinations of red, gold, and horse images. Although red is considered to be one of the most auspicious colors for the gifts, Hugo Boss chose to go bold with additional color choices. According to comments on Cheung’s informal poll, Hugo Boss seems to be the favorite among the commenters. “The Hugo Boss is nice; it’s very modern,” says one user, "but the horse images are also very good.”
Competing with red envelopes this year, however, is another clever way of gifting year of the horse money: on the back of a toy horse. This method is a play on words based on the phrase ma shang you qian, (马上有钱) which can mean both “money on top of a horse” and “make money quickly.”
Of course, the tuhao, or crass nouveau riche version of this practice, is giving a massive amount of cash on top of a Ferrari, which has a horse as its logo: