Astrologists claim that each creature heralds different fortunes for the months ahead. At the world’s major fashion houses, however, the drill remains the same each year: release animal-themed collections in the hunt for all-important Chinese shoppers.
For 2022, Burberry has rendered its signature monogram in beige and orange, giving trench coats, pleated skirts and woven jackets a sleek, tiger-like appearance. Kenzo’s capsule collection meanwhile includes a $565 windbreaker emblazoned with a fearsome tiger graphic. Even brands that traditionally eschew fleeting trends in the name of sustainability have joined in, with Stella McCartney releasing a pair of luxury striped bags.
A promotional image from Burberry’s Lunar New Year 2022 campaign. Credit: Feng Li/© Courtesy of Burberry
Annual shopping binge
This year’s collections, on the other hand, could enjoy a surprising degree of longevity.
After a succession of decidedly unglamorous animals — the pig, the rat and, last year, the ox — the rotating zodiac has finally landed on a more familiar muse. Big cat motifs were popular among fashion designers long before executives began chasing Chinese money, and brands appear very much at home with this year’s theme.
Take Italian label Valentino, which delved into its own history of tiger prints to produce a tasteful range based on one of its collections from the late 1960s (pictured top). Or Balenciaga, which stuck with classic items like track jackets and twist dresses, but simply reimagined them with black stripes on orange and taupe.
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 subtler approach. Salvatore Ferragamo, for example, invited Beijing-based artists Sun Yuan and Peng Yu to create a striking bag inspired by traditional Chinese paintings. Meanwhile Prada — showing how far it has come from the basic accessories of 2010 — is using its understated campaign to raise awareness for the plight of real-life tigers, promising to donate money to the China Green Foundation’s conservation efforts.
Italian label Salvatore Ferragamo invited artists Sun Yuan and Peng Yu to create a unique print inspired by the zodiac tiger. Credit: Salvatore Ferragamo
Whether these designs are timeless enough to be worn when the tiger rears its head again in 2034 remains to be seen. But the animals’ standing in Chinese folklore may help.
Admired for its prowess and strength, the tiger is considered one of China’s favorite zodiac animals (second only, perhaps, to the dragon). Stripes on the creatures’ foreheads are said to resemble the written character “wang,” meaning “king,” and so they were often associated with power and royalty in ancient times. They have also been a common motif in Chinese art, design and even historical clothing, with “tiger-head” shoes — featuring toe caps decorated to resemble tigers — once widely worn by children to ward off evil spirits and protect from disease or misfortune.
As such, there’s a good chance this year’s holiday gifts will live a little longer in the wardrobe than recent efforts. The question, then, may be: Will 2023’s rabbit theme prompt a return to the cheesy, wasteful ways of old?
A tiger may not be able to change its stripes, but maybe fashion can.
Top image: A promotional image from Maison Valentino’s Lunar New Year collection.