In 2017, Gucci announced that it would go fur-free, but its new “Year of the Rabbit” capsule collection shows otherwise.
Ever since the “Black Rabbit Year” dawned, in both East and West, rabbits have been attracting attention as a marketing tool to change the stagnant social atmosphere as they are a symbol of fertility and abundance.
The field that is most active in “rabbit marketing” is the fashion industry. As it is the first sector to reduce spending whenever the economy goes bad, it is risking its life and death the most to promote sales during the holiday season.
While Schiaparelli’s faux animal head gowns have made headlines, Gucci has stealthily removed rabbit felt (not technically fur) after concerns were raised about how the material contradicted the brand’s animal welfare policies.
The latest “Gucci Rabbit” capsule collection playfully captures the rabbit motif that symbolizes intelligence, health, and longevity. The collection attracted attention with a wide range of accessories in stylish prints and brilliant colors. In addition, the collection was praised for effectively expressing the sensibilities of the MZ generation by presenting not only accessories but also handbags, shoes, and jewelry. The men’s version consists of products with witty graphic patterns. Among the shoes, heels with beams reminiscent of rabbit ears and fleece loafers are especially popular.
However, despite the celebratory atmosphere ignited at the start of the lunar new year, admiration crumbled when activists, including French filmmaker Rebecca Cappelli, called out the Italian fashion house for featuring rabbit felt hats and accessories in its latest lunar new year special edition.
“Exploiting rabbits in ads while selling products that harm them is not the way to celebrate the year of the rabbit,” says Cappelli, insinuating that Gucci is “backtracking” on its commitment to a fur-free policy, which was subsequently followed by its parent company Kering’s declaration of going fur-free in 2021.
Evenso, the luxury brand refuted the criticism, claiming that rabbit felt was “a co-product derived from the food supply chain in European farms” and that it was “technically not classified as fur.”
Ironically, this is the second time Gucci has successively featured a real animal in its endorsements. This includes last year’s “Year of the Tiger” campaign, which featured a real tiger in its promotion campaign while simultaneously facing scrutiny from animal welfare societies. Some netizens were even commenting that they’re expecting something more extraordinary in the Year of the Dragon, quite jokingly.
Gucci Scandal: Netizens Unswerving
Despite the roaming controversy in the international arena, Chinese netizens are rather invested in the latest appointment of Sabato de Sarno as Gucci’s creative director. Sharing the spotlight with the former Valentino official, Xiao Zhan, who is acting as Gucci’s global brand ambassador, is also trending on Weibo; on a side note, he’s also rumored to be attending Milan fashion week in late February, which is also a hot topic of discussion that diverts netizens’ attention away from Gucci’s “inadvertent error.”
Other than Gucci, several other luxury brands have also utilized the Chinese zodiac every year, preemptively, to attract their target consumers, the majority of whom are found in Asia. They include Dior’s Luna capsule collection, Burberry’s Year of the Rabbit campaign, Louis Vuitton’s Precious Rabbit collection, and so on.
According to Euromonitor International, the United States will lead the luxury goods market in 2021, followed by China in second, Japan in third, South Korea in seventh, Taiwan in ninth, and Hong Kong in tenth. McKinsey believes that China will regain momentum with a rise of 12% amid the slow growth rate of luxury goods at 37% this year.
With China’s blockade lifted and international travel resumed, expectations for Asian markets have risen even higher.