Are Brands Pigging out on Chinese New Year?
2019 is the Year of the Pig, according to the Chinese Zodiac cycle. But what is normally celebrated largely in East Asia has been noticeably appearing in my fashion feeds lately, and I’m not exactly sure how to feel about it.
And no, I’m not just talking about Peppa Pig (who I think deserves to be a more heavily celebrated part of fashion trends). Brands like Kate Spade, Tory Burch, and most notably Gucci, have been releasing pig-themed collections. My question is… why the craze now? Is it even a craze, and if it is, is that okay?
I first caught wind of this “fad” when Jeffree Star gifted Shane Dawson the entire Gucci x Disney collection, featuring the Three Little Pigs. The collection includes totes, sweaters, tees, backpacks, personalized pins, and many more. In terms of fashion, accessorizing with pigs apparently runs the whole gamut. I had much more leniency toward any judgmental thoughts toward this duo, as they’re known for embracing the pig imagery/iconography aesthetic together.
The bag itself is fine, I guess. But are we really turning to commercializing a cultural and symbolic event for seasonal fashion sales? The mere scope of this “trend” in the fashion industry is incredibly unsettling.
My discomfort only intensifies with the targeted Facebook ads, displaying loads of Kate Spade and Louis Vuitton items, chock full of pig insignia and occasionally emblazoned with “The Year of the Pig.” And yes, it is the Year of the Pig… but since when do these fashion companies give a shit about Chinese New Year?
Even more criticism falls on Dolce & Gabbana, which recently came under fire for playing into insensitive Chinese stereotyping for commercial purposes. As globalized as this world has become, I certainly don’t think that the fashion industry is a beacon of Asian cultural appreciation.
Another offender of cultural perversion is Burberry. Sigh… I know, literally everyone is screwing up, and it’s not even two full months into 2019.
With the launch of it’s new campaign Modern Tradition, Burberry has been using the image of an Asian family to represent family bond and reunion. Maybe it’s just me, but Burberry, you’ve completely missed the target here. Ghost-like families that look half dead, wearing unreasonably bougie outfits in front of a monochrome background isn’t what Asian family looks like!
In fact, I think all of these brands have missed the point of cultural appreciation, if that was their goal to start out with (which I really doubt). Western popular culture is almost obsessed with roasting Asian populations for being heavy consumers of designer items, but when it comes down to American and European fashion houses benefitting from these consumer preferences, there seems to be little to no hesitation to pander to Asian culture and populations.
Sadly, this pandering is rarely done well and often registers as tone deaf or overtly insensitive. What bothers me is every other person’s willingness to reduce China’s cherished traditions into a “collection to have on your radar.”
No matter what the rationale behind these brands’ decisions are, cultural commodification in a creepily or tastelessly appropriative manner will never be in style.
Feature Image Via.