The Year of the Ox in China dominates all fashion collaborations in honour of a special date for the Chinese market. How is a deep understanding of the local culture is crucial nowadays to bond?

The country’s Lunar New Year holiday is one of the most important dates in modern China. Several fashion brands have deployed all kinds of creative strategies to win over a clientele willing to take advantage, more than ever, of the ritual of gift-giving.

Traditionally the Ox or Niú, according to Chinese zodiac, symbolizes diligence, persistence and honesty values, landing this year on Feb. 12 and lasting through Jan. 31, 2022. With the last year’s celebration being cancelled (Year of the Rat), it seems that this time the Chinese are yearning for an over-the-top festive season.

The Western fashion brands’ engagement with the 12 Chinese zodiac animals has been a long-run term strategy. In order to offer on-point products and to be a competitive option for purchase in the country’s top day for giving presents and manifest good wishes to all. This is an essential occasion for raising awareness and to deliver real value as any other key dates in the fashion calendar like awards season, for instance.

Making capsule collections is a well-known practice inside the fashion system. It is a focus oriented product development to fulfill market needs or desires, business opportunities or to strengthen a brand’s portfolio from competitors.

A capsule collection could have a ‘guest’, a renowned people in their field or to be designed for a specific purpose such as to expand the main collection to offer variability without altering the base line or, to serve as a platform for brand’s visibility and engage with the targeted audience.

However, this opportunity comes along with a great responsibility such as deep understanding of the culture and the social behaviour of the community. Considering that, in this particular case, the vast majority of the brands market from a western perspective and sometimes fail into give equal importance of language and the cultural references of the many countries in the Asia-Pacific area.

The Importance of a Cultural Approach.

According to Dutch social psychologist Geert Hofstede, a pioneer researcher about culture across modern nations, ‘culture is the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from others’. But the term culture has reached many different areas of knowledge, from anthropology, to political science, back to sociology, corporate management and organizations.

In the end, culture is what bonds us together, the emotional side of it and certain practices to gain recognition and validation from the group. In that sense, the dimensionality of cultures exists as a form of constructs in our minds, a mental impression of belonging to something, somehow, bigger than you.

As a fashion brand or a fashion strategist, it is mandatory to treat and manage positively this thin line between appreciation and appropriation. For fashion players this has been a constant pain point in the past, mainly because the lack of information, the cultural insensitivity, the opportunistic focus, and a money-only driven business without purpose.

As Hofstede states, some of the keys to a good cultural approach to Chinese people are: first, to build Xin (trust). Second, to know your place (even if you are Vuitton) and respect the hierarchical structure. Third, to think in terms of ‘We’ instead of ‘I’. Fourth, success is an achievement (hard work) and this is important for them. And fifth, to think in long-term (permanence and durability are key factors) because they ‘invest’ in things that last.

Capsule Fashion Collections for Contemporary China.

Adidas has set a great example about how to conduct an omnichannel strategy (product, digital advertising, app/ e-commerce and social channels) for CNY, including a more contemporary storytelling to charm the users with a fresh twist, encouraging and at the same time engaging them to action.

A local effort including key insights around the wishes, the celebration and the joy of come back home with family. With key people and celebrity endorsements to reach a wider spectrum of demographics through gamification with their -actual and virtual- ‘lucky coins’.

Burberry has developed a special limited-edition capsule with the Thomas Burberry monogram motif and the Ox, in a more literal way, including trench coats, bags and wallets.

Dior Men, under Kim Jones creative direction, has taken a more streetwear and sport approach collaborating with Shawn Stüssy, with trending silhouettes, a navy blue, white or red color palette with minimalist graffiti. Besides the reinvention of the classic Dior’s Saddle bag.

Prada with the launching of “Enter 2021 New Possibilities” claim, literally asks for consumers to open the door to this metaphorical journey. Besides launching a Pop-up E-store in Wechat where users can share their wishes and play with filters in Douyin, -the new ‘it’ social media app- in mainland china.