Getty Images, Perri Tomkiewicz
Lunar New Year is always a joyous time filled with lucky food and red envelopes stuffed with cash. But for many Asians, this year’s holiday has taken on special meaning after a 2021 that was marred by pandemic-fueled anti-Asian racism. “We should unabashedly celebrate our heritage, because joy is the most resilient and radical form of rebellion,” says activist Amanda Nguyen, founder of Rise, who has been outspoken about both drawing awareness to the recent spate of violence and highlighting the successes of the community.
The holiday is celebrated by countries in East Asia such as China and Korea and Southeast Asian nations including Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Each year is represented by both an animal (there are 12) and a natural element (five in total), with the cycle repeating over time. 2021 was, fittingly, the Metal Ox—a time for hard work and enduring challenges. 2022 ushers in the Water Tiger, an animal that symbolizes vitality, strength, and a tempered aggressiveness. (The water element tames the big cat’s natural ferocity.)
We catch up with 12 designers, buyers, influencers, and other fashion people of Asian descent to ask them what the Year of the Water Tiger means to them, and what they hope for the next 12 months to come. Read on for their answers.
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Phillip Lim, designer
The Tiger symbolizes ushering in change through steadfast courage and bravery. It’s the protector of our collective humanity. It reminds us to protect what is most valuable in life, which is each other.
We need to bring communities together by using every opportunity we can to create an understanding of each other’s heritage and experiences. It is through an inclusive process that we can truly appreciate what makes our human family so special.
Tina Leung, stylist and influencer
I want the Year of the Tiger to be a time where we don’t hide from who we are, where we can thrive as a community. We’ve been through so much in 2021 that it feels like we deserve happiness and better fortune.
I’m looking forward to new opportunities and also to spend more time with my closest friends and family, which is something everyone craves after two years of being isolated in the pandemic.
Gia Kuan, publicist
The Year of the Tiger is an important one for me, because I was born in the Year of the Fire Tiger. I’ve only just been able to see my parents for the first time in three years, and it’s been so special to spend time with them in New York for the past few months.
It makes me think about loved ones and how fast time goes by. You have to communicate that you love them no matter what! I’ll be doing more of that in the upcoming year, and I’m also going to try to take some time for myself.
Lastly, I hope to continue to live fearlessly. No matter what year it is, that’s been my number one priority.
Joe Zee, fashion personality
If we can retire the “hardworking, sloshing through the fields” mentality of the Year of the Ox, I am ready for what this year symbolizes: ferocity, tenacity, resilience, courage, and strength. It’s what we all need as we enter into 2022.
My community has been through some tough times recently with unadulterated hate and heinous violence targeted at us for no reason other than being who we are. I’ve been so proud to see us rally together and stand up to fight this, but that’s just the start. I am hoping that the fiery, passionate, rebellious traits that have come to mark the Tiger will take us into this new year with even more empowered confidence to have our faces represented, our injustices righted, and our voices heard. As the emotional and poised leader of the jungle, our Tiger is ready.
Sandy Liang, designer
My family and I will have a cute tiger posted up on our front door. The Year of the Tiger also means my sister has to wear a red luck charm bracelet for a few months, because she’s born under the same animal, which is considered not auspicious.
I hope for the same things every time, though: that we continue to have a healthy and happy family.
CeCe Vu, TikTok lead, fashion and beauty partnerships
This Lunar New Year, or Tết (as we call it in Vietnam), I honor our traditional symbols of new beginnings: blooming cherry blossoms, new clothes, and a squeaky-clean house.
I spent the morning of January 31 FaceTiming my parents in Vietnam, as their New Year happened 15 hours before mine. We exchanged prayers for health, fortune, and, most importantly, a family reunion very soon in 2022. The context of our collective global trauma has drawn us closer, and we’ve grown to appreciate our time together as a family, especially during an important holiday like Tết.
Prabal Gurung, designer
I hope the Year of the Tiger gives us the strength, courage, and wisdom to understand the impermanence of our everyday freedoms. For me, the new year signals a time to reflect and rejoice in simple moments, to celebrate our communities, and to honor family.
Siying Qu, creative director at Private Policy
I want to channel the Tiger spirit and be brave and confident, yet do it with grace, which I think is the Asian way of being fierce. This energy is much needed after two long years of mental and physical fights with the pandemic. I’ve witnessed hate, but also amazing unity, so I want to enter this new year with Tiger-like energy.
Christine Chiu, star and producer of Bling Empire
As we close 2021, a year when many experienced unprecedented hate, violence, deaths, and pandemic woes, we should take encouragement from the positivity that the Year of the Tiger brings. In Chinese traditions and mythology, the Tiger is the king of the jungle. He is resilient against adversity and hardship. With unparalleled courage, he fights back.
Being reminded of the strength and endurance of not only my ancestors, but my community, inspires me to fight through what I hope will be the end of this pandemic. It empowers me to stand up against hate and ignorance that still looms, and compels me to exemplify Tiger characteristics of tenacity, fortitude, and fearlessness for my son to emulate. My father is a Tiger, and though I was born in the Year of the Dog, I hope to be a Tiger mom for Baby G in the very best sense of the word.
Humberto Leon, founder of Opening Ceremony
We’re living in a moment where we need to create our own paths in life, and I think the Year of the Tiger is the time to do so, especially with an animal that represents strength, bravery, and resilience. We need to not assimilate, but bring our culture into the larger narrative.
Caroline Maguire, fashion director at Shopbop
I’m so excited to be celebrating the Year of the Tiger, an animal that symbolizes strength, courage, and bravery—all things a Tiger mom like myself would approve of! My family and I will be celebrating at home in true Maguire style by dressing in red to attract good energy and ordering takeout from our go-to NYC Chinese restaurants. We love Dim Sum Go Go for the dumplings, as eating them symbolizes wealth and good fortune. We’ll also be ordering from Joe’s Shanghai, in particular their iconic soup dumplings and the Chilean sea bass, since eating a whole fish brings prosperity. Noodles from there are also a must, since they represent longevity and happiness.
Elizabeth von der Goltz, chief commercial officer at Matchesfashion
The last year was a tough one for everyone, and I’m no exception. I made a major change professionally, and both my husband and I have had real challenges with our respective families health-wise. I’m hoping the Year of the Tiger will start with a roar and bring us all back to embracing life, in addition to giving me some stability on a personal level. This year is supposed to be especially great for those born in the Year of the Ox, which I am, so I’m staying positive and looking forward to all the love, health, and prosperity this year promises.
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