Multi-billionaire investor Warren Buffet is credited with giving this nugget of financial advice: “The 19th century belonged to England, the 20th century belonged to the US, and the 21st century belongs to China. Invest accordingly.”
Western fashion brands like Nike, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Dior, and Givenchy have really taken it to heart. The famous labels have not been content with simply setting up shop across the many vast cities of the world’s second largest economy. For years, to truly affirm their presence in the country, they have been producing custom items referring to Chinese culture, often using Mandarin characters.
Unfortunately, these attempts at localisation have often led to ridicule from Chinese people. Gogoboi, a massively popular Chinese fashion blogger, enjoys collecting the worst examples of cultural misunderstanding from western brands. He then shares them with his 5 million followers on Weibo — a popular Chinese social media website.
Landor, a global brand consulting firm, gathered five of the worst lost-in-translation western brand mistakes that were picked up by Gogoboi, and shared them with Business Insider.
Nike released a pair of special edition trainers. Sewn into the left shoe was the character “Fa,” which translates as “Getting rich.” On the right shoe Nike placed the character “Fu,” meaning “Fortune arrives.” So far so good.
Unfortunately for Nike, when combined, “Fa” and “Fu” translate as “Getting fat.”
4. Louis Vuitton
To celebrate the Year of the Monkey on the Chinese calendar, high-end brand Louis Vuitton released a special edition necklace. Retailing at $2,450, the gold-finished jewellery is not cheap.
However, when Gogoboi posted it to his Weibo page, it got more than 30,000 views and hundreds of negative comments. People called it “knock-off,” “creepy,” and “like an alien.”
Another French brand, Dior, made a similar mistake in its attempt to honour the year of the monkey.
Dior’s “Diorelita” limited-edition red and gold monkey was compared to a piece of red rope.
Givenchy’s attempt at referencing the Zodiac calendar was also mocked by Gogoboi’s followers. It attempted to celebrate the Chines Year of the Monkey by using images that looked like orangutans.
In 2015, UK luxury brand Burberry made a different mistake. To celebrate Chinese New Year, the luxury label released a special edition of its classic print scarf. The character “Fu,” for “fortune,” was back. This time “Fu” was printed on one end of the scarf in bold red. Commenters on Weibo said it was jarring against the pale print.
Retailing at around $925, the special edition cost $215 more than the standard version. Worse was that the character “Fu” remained upright when worn. In Chinese tradition it is well known that “Fu” needs to be turned upside down for it to hold its intended meaning of “beckoning in fortune.”
“Did the Burberry designer get his/her head squashed between doors?” said one Weibo commenter. “What the Fu?”
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