Photography Courtesy of Gucci
Gong Xi Fa Cai! Chúc Mừng Năm Mới! Happy Lunar New Year! With the upcoming Lunar New Year, greetings like these have become increasingly popular across various cultures. Around the world, approximately 1.5 billion people celebrate the Lunar New Year–most prominently in countries such as China, Vietnam, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, and Cambodia. Despite such a high population of people who celebrate this tradition, markets and media seem to only focus on the Chinese aspect upon Lunar New Year. As China becomes an increasingly prominent consumer market in the global economy, many brands have emphasized directing their marketing campaigns during Lunar New Year towards the Chinese demographic. While there is a higher representation of Lunar New Year nowadays, the lack of focus on other cultures that celebrate this holiday reduces the overall significance of the traditions and importance. To an extent, commercialization of Lunar New Year has been so drastic that questions of whitewashing and reducing ethnic traditions have been presented against brands’ marketing campaigns during this time. Are these forms of commercialization beneficial in educating more consumers about the diversity of cultures or are they merely just capitalizing off the culture for brand promotions when it is convenient?
Most notably, such commercialization can especially be highlighted with luxury brands such as Gucci, Bottega Veneta, and Prada launching massive Lunar New Year campaigns for this upcoming season. However, during this Lunar New Year, these brands have pledged their sales towards more philanthropic causes rather than just commercialization. Prada has initiated a charitable campaign and project, “Action in the Year of the Tiger”, dedicated to tiger awareness and protection against looming extinction risks. Moreover, Bottega Veneta has plastered part of the Great Wall with its name in their signature green color and tangerine. From this installation, Bottega Veneta has pledged donations to support renovations and maintenance of Shanhaiguan, an important pass within the site. While there are elements beyond pure commercialization in both of these cases, many may still question the intent behind luxury houses and other brands in doing so.
In the past, luxury brands have acted indifferent or silent on issues in regards to Anti-Asian sentiment but the focus always seems to shift once it’s around Lunar New Year. Within Dolce Gabbana’s 2019 campaign, a Chinese model was depicted eating pizza with chopsticks and struggling until the end of the video where she finally bit the pizza. This video spread like wildfire across all the media platforms and brought upon much rage and backlash from viewers about cultural insensitivity. As luxury brands put forth tone deaf rhetoric or stay silent during the Anti-Asian hate sentiments, they neglect the entire demographic that they have been capitalizing off during traditional holidays such as Lunar New Year. Within recent years, Anti-Asian hate crimes have increased by more than 77% (FBI); in areas such as New York and San Francisco, there have been increases by more than 361% and 567%. Despite such devastating numbers, luxury brands have remained silent on all of these situations and only begin to advocate for these Asian communities when Lunar New Year rolls around in hopes of lining their pockets. While these brands profit greatly through these cultural marketing campaigns, they must begin to recognize that they must further support these communities beyond during this prosperous season of giving during Lunar New Year.