- For the Chinese New Year of the Dragon, brands have been trying to pay homage to Chinese culture, while innovating their campaigns.
- Chen Fenwan, with her installations inspired by the traditional craft of paper-cutting, became a popular partner in brand collaborations.
- Both Givenchy and La Mer chose the dragon scale binding technique, an intangible cultural heritage, as the main feature of their CNY campaigns and collaborated with the book artist Zhang Xiaodong.
Ahead of this year’s Chinese New Year, domestic and international brands have been launching campaigns to leverage the festivities, as well as the significance of the dragon in Chinese culture. A common strategy has been for brands to create CNY collections, from Armani’s celebratory red gift box with “dragon scale” patterns to Zara’s co-branded collection with Chinese designer lifestyle label Xi Xing Le, complete with pop-up concept stores around the country.
Speaking of pop-ups, many brands have built time-limited spaces or installations for the occasion. One of the most eye-catching ones has been Louis Vuitton’s gigantic dragon installation on the streets of Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu.
On the other hand, paying tribute to Chinese culture is another popular way of celebrating the Chinese New Year. In this respect, Loewe’s jade collection is a great example. The Spanish luxury fashion house partnered with three jade artists to produce three exclusive jade pendants and released a short film about the craft of jade sculpting. The brand also invited the artists to give talks at its Casa Loewe shops. Meanwhile, the brand released a collection of Flamenco Mini handbags based on the colours of antique jade pieces.
Working with contemporary artists who take inspiration from traditional crafts seems a great way to both honour Chinese culture and remain creative and relevant. Indeed, one artist became the hottest collaborator this year, for precisely this reason.
Working with contemporary artists who take inspiration from traditional crafts seems a great way to both honour Chinese culture and remain creative and relevant
One of the most popular collaborators for brands this year is Guangzhou-based contemporary artist Chen Fenwan. She takes inspiration from traditional paper cutting and builds her own art world with creative concepts and bold colours.
Chen has had several high-profile, co-branding campaigns with partners from Gucci, Remy Martin and Shiseido to Anta and Uniqlo. Her style combines traditional Chinese sensibility with a bold and urban aesthetic, plus conceptual coolness. Moreover, one of Chen’s most iconic pieces is the 2017-2018 pink dragon installation Infinite (不息). For brands, it’s both eye-catching and pays tribute to traditional Chinese culture and craft, making it a no-brainer for a CNY collab.
It’s both eye-catching and pays tribute to traditional Chinese culture and craft, making it a no-brainer for a CNY collab
The Swiss luxury watchmaker Hublot launched a co-branded Spirit of Big Bang wristwatch with Chen, aptly named the Titanium Dragon. The dragon design comes from Chen’s artwork, a giant pink and blue dragon installation made with paper. However, the watch goes beyond taking inspiration from Chen’s work but also uses tiny shards of metal to replicate the paper pieces and recreate the layered effect of Chen’s paper art. In the meantime, a giant dragon installation was set up outside Plaza 66, where Hublot’s flagship is housed.
Beauty giant L’Oréal Paris, on the other hand, showcased Chen’s existing piece, Infinite in more than one way. From brand ambassador photo shoots with Ju Xiaowen, Liu Wen and Wei Daxun, to a near-kilometre-long pink dragon made out of rafts on the Yulong River (遇龙河, lit. Meet Dragon River) in Guilin, Guangxi. The campaign concluded with a video showing a CGI paper dragon flying from Paris to the streets of Shanghai, via the L’Oréal building. On Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, the topic “Ride the Tides to Prosperity in the Year of the Dragon“ (#风生水起过龙年#) earned an impressive 180 million views.
For the Year of the Dragon, Chen also teamed up with Scotch whisky maker Johnnie Walker for an exclusive packaging for the Black Label whisky. The black box is covered with a pink dragon, inspired by Chen’s paper art.
Chinese fashion brand PEACEBIRD released a co-branded collection with the artist. Across men’s, women’s and children’s fashion, the collection includes urban and casual garments adorned with paper-cutting elements designed by Chen, in red and pink colours. On-time and on-brand, the collection features dragon and bird motifs heavily.
The honourable mention
The intangible cultural heritage, the dragon scale binding also saw two high-profile team-ups this year. French luxury fashion house Givenchy and skincare brand La Mer both chose the technique for their Year of the Dragon campaign, and are in collaboration with Zhang Xiaodong, the book artist specialising in recreating the Tang-dynasty binding craft.
Givenchy showed slightly more ambition by inviting Liu Yichun to make the dragon print and creating a “yellow calendar” almanac. La Mer, on the other hand, built a colourful gift box out of the dragon scale binding.
Creativity and the element of surprise between the two partners will likely leave an impression on the consumers
For brands, especially international brands, it is not easy to celebrate the Chinese New Year and honour Chinese culture in a way that is both creative and authentic. Collaborations with artists and craftspeople help pave the way. In a sense, both Chen Fenwan and Zhang Xiaodong are contemporary artists who take inspiration from traditional crafts, so are Loewe’s Jade sculptors and Xi Xing Le’s porcelain-making. According to a recent survey, creativity and the element of surprise between the two partners will likely leave an impression on the consumers.