Astrologers claim that each creature portends different fortunes for the months to come. In the world’s major fashion houses, however, the exercise remains the same every year: releasing animal-themed collections in search of the most important Chinese buyers.
For 2022, Burberry returned its signature monogram in beige and orange, giving trench coats, pleated skirts and woven jackets an elegant tiger look. Kenzo’s capsule collection meanwhile includes a $565 windbreaker featuring a fearsome tiger graphic. Even brands that traditionally eschew fleeting trends in the name of sustainability have joined us, with Stella McCartney launching a pair of luxe striped bags.
A promotional image from Burberry’s Lunar New Year 2022 campaign. Credit: Feng Li/© Courtesy of Burberry
The annual shopping spree
This year’s collections, on the other hand, could enjoy surprising longevity.
After a succession of decidedly unglamorous animals – the pig, the rat and, last year, the ox – the revolving zodiac has finally landed on a more familiar muse. Big cat designs were popular among fashion designers long before executives started chasing Chinese money, and brands seem quite comfortable with this year’s theme.
Take Italian brand Valentino, which drew on its own history of tiger prints to produce a tasteful range based on one of its late 1960s collections (pictured top). Or Balenciaga, who stuck to classic items like track jackets and twist dresses but simply reinvented them with black-on-orange-and-taupe stripes.
Moschino celebrates the Year of the Tiger with a capsule collection featuring Tony the Tiger. Credit: Moschino
A promotional image from Gucci’s festive Lunar New Year campaign. Credit: Angelo Pennetta/Gucci
Others, however, took a more subtle approach approach. Salvatore Ferragamo, for example, invited Beijing artists Sun Yuan and Peng Yu to create a striking bag inspired by traditional Chinese paintings. Meanwhile, Prada – showing how far it’s strayed from 2010’s basic accessories – is using its low-key campaign to raise awareness of the plight of real-life tigers, promising to donate money to conservation efforts at the China Green Foundation .
Italian brand Salvatore Ferragamo invited artists Sun Yuan and Peng Yu to create a unique print inspired by the zodiac tiger. Credit: Salvatore Ferragamo
Whether or not these designs are timeless enough to wear when the tiger rises again in 2034 remains to be seen. But the position of animals in Chinese folklore may help.
Admired for its prowess and strength, the tiger is considered one of China’s favorite zodiac animals (possibly behind the dragon). The stripes on the creatures’ foreheads are said to resemble the written character “wang”, which means “king”, and therefore were often associated with power and royalty in ancient times. They have also been a common motif in Chinese historical art, design and even clothing, with “tiger head” shoes – with toecaps decorated to look like tigers – once widely worn by children to ward off evil spirits and protection from illness or misfortune.
As such, there’s a good chance that this year’s holiday gifts will live a little longer in the wardrobe than recent efforts. The question, then, may be: will the bunny theme of 2023 prompt a return to the cheesy, wasteful methods of yesteryear?
A tiger may not be able to change its stripes, but maybe fashion can.
Top image: A promotional image of the Lunar New Year collection from Maison Valentino.