A Chinese New Year Controversy: Is Gucci Fur-real?

A Chinese New Year Controversy: Is Gucci Fur-real? thumbnail

What Happened: Despite Kering going fur-free in 2021 and Gucci itself being a certified member of the Fur Free Alliance, the Italian luxury house’s Lunar New Year capsule included products made of rabbit felt. 

In addition to featuring a 100 percent rabbit felt hat, among other accessories, the collection was shot with real life bunnies — a move that was widely-critiqued as being in extremely poor taste. It was brought to the spotlight by activists including French filmmaker Rebecca Cappelli in various social media posts last week, consequently making it a viral case for concern.

Gucci’s Year of the Rabbit campaign was shot with real rabbits and featured rabbit felt products. Photo: Gucci

Seeing as China accounts for around 35 percent of Gucci’s annual sales revenue (Barclays 2022), it’s beyond a rookie error. Gucci therefore opted to immediately, and quietly, pull all of the products in question.

The Jing Take: Prior to taking the products off shelves, Gucci initially argued that rabbit felt is not classed as fur, seeing as the animal skin is not actually attached to it. However, the production of felt is generally linked to unethical or cruel treatment of animals.

The most baffling part of this controversy is that this is the second year in a row that Gucci has come under scrutiny over its Lunar New Year activities. For the 2022 Year of the Tiger, the Italian luxury house incorporated real-life tigers in its advertising campaign, met by uproar from animal welfare organizations. The imagery ultimately portrayed the exotic mammal as a pet or luxury item, and was slammed for glorifying captive wild animals.

Gucci is sending the wrong message by promoting tigers as pets and luxury items when they are wild animals who belong in the wild. We urge Gucci to stop using wild animals in their campaigns and issue a statement that tigers belong in the wild. https://t.co/r7JAHgWtfH

— World Animal Protection US (@MoveTheWorldUS) January 18, 2022

Somehow, it seems that this latest incident has largely flown under the radar of netizens in the mainland. Across Weibo, consumers seem more interested in Sabato De Sarno being the new creative director, or local actor Xiao Zhan acting as a brand ambassador (despite being appointed over a year ago, the hashtag #肖战Gucci品牌代言人# has 275,000 reads at the time of writing this). 

In order to avoid further backlash, the brand has scrubbed all of the Lunar New Year promotions from its social media platforms. Though, the clothing collection (sans rabbit felt) is still available to shop. A lesson in swerving unwanted noise, perhaps.

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.

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