HANGZHOU • Chinese zodiacinspired designs released by top fashion brands for the upcoming Year of the Monkey have been ridiculed on Chinese social media, exposing the challenges Western designers face when catering to Chinese aesthetics.
The widely mocked new products include the Vuittonite monkey pendant necklace by Louis Vuitton, Dior's monkey bracelet, Givenchy's limited-edition Chinese New Year Prisme Libre, Estee Lauder's limited-edition Monkey Powder Compact and Piaget's limitededition timepiece featuring a monkey holding a peach.
An article published by Moment Magazine on WeChat, the popular messaging app, jeered these designs for going against the idea of high fashion.
"A big, big ugly here," read one comment left by WeChat user CatSister.
"Don't forget to add the New Year edition of Nike, I almost laughed myself to death," wrote another user, Yoyo.
The Nike Air Force I Chinese New Year edition features a lotus sewn on the tongue and the brand's Chinese translation "Nai Ke" and a carp on the back.
Although in Chinese culture, the decorative design with lotus and carp together indicates auspiciousness and prosperity, Chinese fashion pundits see it as rustic and passe.
Netizen Yvpong7J wondered what had led foreigners to think this was "du jour", while most netizens said the products looked like they were fakes.
Wang Chenmin, advertising manager of yoka.com, a fashion website, said that although the new designs seem to have fallen short of the aesthetic standards of domestic customers, the designers had put a lot of effort into creativity and artistry.
"While beauty and ugliness are subjective, a mixed response is inevitable. As long as the brands' fixed customers are there, business will be okay."
According to Wang, the best years for creative design are those of the dragon and horse, partly because the Chinese like these two signs the best and they are close to existing fashion logos.
For example, Hermes' horse leather pendant in 2014 was a huge success in China, said Wang.
"The horse was in the brand's history and it echoed with Chinese New Year without looking too deliberate."
Freelance branding consultant Wang Zhe believes the top fashion brands are keen to tap the rising influence of China economically and culturally, most importantly the huge purchasing power of the Chinese market.
"But to link brands with Chinese culture is not an easy task," Wang said.
"Brands have their own styles and if Chinese elements are just boldly added, the result may not be a success."
Analyst Sun Xiaohu from the Chinese marketing department of LVMH group said that a solid cultural background is needed to survive the test of time.