Who says no to a tasty cake delivered in a gorgeous gift box? The correct answer: no one. On the eve of the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is celebrated on September 13 this year, many Western luxury brands have created their own specially designed mooncake gift boxes for valued customers and business associates. As part of their globalization strategies, brands are increasingly paying more attention to local holidays, like the Mid-Autumn Festival, especially those heavily reliant on the lucrative Chinese market.
The Mid-Autumn Festival originated as an East Asian festival mainly for Chinese and Vietnamese populations to celebrate the harvest. It’s a time for families and friends to gather together, under the light of the full moon, to give thanks for the harvest or harmonious unions. Corresponding with this, a round, rich pastry filled with various pastes — red bean and lotus seed are the most common ones — named ‘mooncakes’ are baked and enjoyed.
Today, the Mid-Autumn Festival has transformed from a regional holiday to a world-recognized festival and eating mooncakes remains the most rooted tradition. Luxury brands have smartly adopted this tradition to not only show their fashion acumen through their elaborately designed mooncake gift boxes, but also to connect with the wider world and their traditions.
Here we review the efforts of seven luxury brand’s mooncake gift boxes in terms of brand specialty, cultural interpretation, and how they taste.
Fendi’s mooncake gift box ranks first in creativity and cultural interpretation, as the brand’s design reminds us of three Chinese traditional crafts, which they’ve cleverly combined rather than separated. The shape of the box looks like a sophisticated lunch box used in Forbidden City in ancient times. It includes a light, which when you turn it on, transforms the box into a lantern (one of the ancient lighting tools). It also contains a transparent rotatable ‘Pingfeng,’ an item of Chinese classical furniture used to block the wind or sight. In terms of brand specialty, Fendi has printed their logo on the outside of the gift box and on each mooncake housed inside it. As for taste, the mooncakes reflect both the traditional Chinese culture along with a more modern Western approach. One is filled with red wine cranberry (Western); another is filled with egg yolk lotus (traditional). Overall, Fendi’s identity echoes the theme of Mid-Autumn Festival throughout, making it an elegant, versatile, and tasty gift box.
Dior’s mooncake gift box may be the most romantic one. When opening both sides of the box, a Chinese folding fan opens as well, revealing an aromatherapy candle and eightmooncakes. The box is colored midnight blue and dotted with gold stars and Christian Dior’s signature, with each mooncake stamped with an individual letter, spelling Dior. The presentation makes for an elegant and rather romantic approach to celebrating the Mid-Autumn Night.
This year, Louis Vuitton took us back to our childhood with their striking orange and navy blue colored gift box. Inside, there’s a playful blue hot air balloon floating in the ‘lucky clouds’ (a symbol of best wishes in China). The balloon itself is hollow and decorated with LV’s classic four-leaf clover logo. But unlike other brands, Louis Vuitton skips including mooncakes and instead offers five different-color chocolates, which is yet another surprise for this inviting, inventive gift box.
Tiffany & Co.
Tiffany & Co.’s mooncake gift box is inspired by the art of Chinese paper cutting. They applied two layers of hollow carved paper boxes to recreate the famous windows of Tiffany’s headquarters on 727 Fifth Avenue, but what really ties it together with Chinese traditional culture is what happens when you turn on the light on the bottom of the box — the entire gift box turns into a traditional Chinese folkcraft lantern. As for the mooncakes, they’re tucked away in Tiffany blue boxes. Another thing we really liked about Tiffany’s approach was that it was practical. Once you’ve finished your mooncakes, the box itself can be used as a stylish table lamp.
Prada went with an entirely different approach, creating a circular gift box printed in their popular banana print. Once opened, six mooncakes were arranged in a circle, expressing the meaning of reunion perfectly, which is the main point of the Mid-Autumn Festival. Though it was less ornate than the other gift boxes, we thought Prada did a great job of staying on brand while also capturing the meaning of the festival.
Gucci produced probably the most expensive mooncake gift box this year, but still lost the battle because of a lack of cultural resonance. Gucci’s mooncakes come in a heavy red suitcase, with six mooncakes housed in six tin boxes, each decorated with a different Gucci pattern, and finally, they’ve included a portable chess set on the left side of the box. The problem with Gucci’s design, apart from the mooncakes themselves, is that there’s very little related to the Mid-Autumn Festival. To be sure, Gucci nailed it on brand identity but forgot about the cultural aspect of the festival.
Burberry’s 2019 Chinese New Year campaign proved to be a total failure because of their cultural misreading. Sadly, the brand seems to have learned little from their past mistake. The outer box is coated entirely with Burberry logos, and the four mooncakes inside, each in a small box, are simply printed with two letters each, spelling Burberry’s. Maybe it took a perfect score in the brand specialty, but in terms of cultural interpretation, Burberry turned in a disappointing answer.