Customers not going ape over Monkey business

"TOO CREEPY": Louis Vuitton's pendant necklace draws criticism for an alien-looking monkey design.
Customers not going ape over Monkey business

POSITIVE REACTION: Chopard's L.U.C XP Urushi watch features a vivid portrayal of a monkey on its face done by Japanese craftsmen.


    Jan 19, 2016

    Customers not going ape over Monkey business


    WITH Chinese customers spending big on luxury products comes pressure for the fashion industry to cater to their tastes. But many seem to have failed - and failed hard - for the upcoming Chinese New Year.

    Eager to incorporate traditional Chinese elements into their collections for the lucrative Chinese market, the impending Year of the Monkey saw many special releases.

    Sadly for many Chinese customers, these releases failed to appeal.

    Many items inspired by the Year of the Monkey became fodder for rampant online ridicule.

    Brands whose designs were "lost in translation" include Louis Vuitton and Armani, all well-respected names that faced jeers from Chinese Internet users for going against their usually classy style.

    Incorporating animal icons in fine jewellery can be tricky. Take Louis Vuitton's newly-unveiled necklaces and bracelets, for example.

    Fashion pundits were apparently bemused by the alien-looking monkey motif which, according to Netease's style section, is "too creepy to look at".

    The public is not buying the designs either. "You've got to be kidding me. Do monkeys in the real world look like that?" went a post on WeChat.

    Louis Vuitton has company in facing ridicule. Dior, another French fashion house, did not manage to incorporate Chinese elements successfully either.

    Unlike Louis Vuitton's gold chain necklace, Dior's Diorelita limited-edition collection opted for red rope, paired with a golden monkey motif. It was not well received either.

    When it comes to China-inspired colour choices, designers seem to unanimously go for red and gold, as both are seen as festive and auspicious. Beauty products seem to have gone for this pairing as well. However, is this obvious pairing really the way to Chinese customers' hearts?

    Giorgio Armani and Givenchy chose red for their make-up cases. Sporting the Chinese character "fu", meaning bliss, engraved on the front of the compact, Armani's face powder case was bright red instead of the usually darker, more exclusive-looking compacts. This ended up making it rather cheap-looking.

    "The Armani compact is surprisingly ugly so that I couldn't help vandalising mine," said a Weibo user.

    Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) decided to go for gold. However, the "more is more" aesthetic of the YSL face palette is hard to reconcile with the French house's simple and chic image.

    Its normally elegant clientele is likely to steer clear of this garish palette, which also failed to appeal to the Chinese customers it was courting.

    Sadly, in going for what is traditional and perceived as "popular" in China - red and gold - these beauty products ended up looking common rather than exclusive.

    Compared with the negative feedback on new releases in jewellery, beauty products and apparel, the feedback on watches released for the season has been more positive.

    Chopard stood out from its fellow Swiss haute jewellers and watchmakers. Its L.U.C XP Urushi watch, featuring a vivid portrayal of a monkey on its face, stays true to the brand's image and style. The painting was supervised and executed by Japanese masters - no wonder it suits Asian aesthetics.

    Still, just because Chinese customers voiced frustration online does not mean designers did not put in great effort to understand the culture and appeal to it. Some designers clearly did substantial research before releasing their collections.

    For example, Carrera y Carrera released a pair of monkey head rings in white and yellow gold, and the blue-blood jeweller cleverly said that they were inspired by a historical story with a Chinese connection.

    The rings pay tribute to Isabella of Portugal in the 16th century. The queen was said to have commissioned a Cantonese man from Macau to make a monkey amulet for her.

    The idea to give a piece of jewellery a historical lineage is beautiful but the product still did not live up to expectations.

    Many said the monkey face on the ring looks amusing but not in way that would convince them to buy it.

    With due respect to the designers, this is where aesthetics again failed to transcend East-West culture barriers.