When we first saw the limited edition tees and sweatshirts Kenzo released today in celebration of the upcoming Chinese New Year, we had one question: where are the damn monkeys? In case you aren't up on your Chinese zodiac, 2016 will be the Year of the Monkey. The Kenzo collection looked pretty good, but made use of the brand’s signature tiger head and a stylized gold eye, without an ape in sight. Frankly, this seemed like a glaring omission. Does Kenzo have a problem with our fellow primate friends? Were they unmoved by the 1994 classic Monkey Trouble? Were we missing something?
Well, it turns out we might be. We reached out to Doris Ingber, a professional Chinese astrology expert, to see if we could piece this all together and potentially make a purchase. Doris has a wealth of knowledge on the significance of the Year of the Monkey, and on a lot of other topics (like how 1776 was a Year of the Monkey and now in 2016, another monkey year, the biggest success story on Broadway is Hamilton, which—stay with me—takes place in 1776. Stay woke.).
When we connected with Doris on the phone about these Kenzo shirts, she dove right in.
Doris: I was thinking about the monkey. Monkeys really are about grooming. They do groom each other.
Complex: That has a connection to the world of fashion, I guess?
Yes, it does. It does. My own opinion: things have looked the same for a long time. And the monkey is very playful, and very creative. It’s really the closest animal in the Chinese Zodiac to us. Monkeys are very – they’re individuals. Rather than looking the same, they’ll go out on a limb.
So, for someone who doesn’t know, what is the significance to the Year of the Monkey?
Well, this would be a Fire Monkey, also. Every 12 years is a monkey year, because there are 12 zodiac animals in Chinese astrology. Rather than months, Chinese astrology is based on the year. And the animal archetype of the year refers to your ancestral knowledge: who you are and what your roots are. For each of the animals, there are five different elements, which are wood, fire, earth, metal and water. It’s really the cycles of nature. A Fire Monkey is the most extreme of the monkeys. The Fire Monkey is an entertainer.
Is there anything in particular about the Fire Monkey specifically that you can relate to the fashion world?
Again, the playfulness. The outrageousness. Clever. Intelligent. They’re also very protective of each other. When you sent me the images [of the Kenzo collection], the first one, the eye, I thought, “I’ll have to send you some monkey images that I use,” because you look into the eyes of the monkey, and I thought that eye was very much of the wisdom that you see in a monkey’s eyes. The tiger was fascinating, because the tiger is the opposite animal in Chinese astrology to the monkey! It clashes with the monkey. For some people, when [you have] the monkey and the tiger, they say, “That’s not good.” But sometimes, the opposites attract each other. In Chinese astrology and in feng shui, when I’m working with a client who may not have something in their astrology, what they don’t have is actually what they need to create balance.
So basically, having this tiger imagery on your shirt in the year of the monkey could be disastrous or it could be perfect?
It could be balancing. Yeah. In elemental energy, it’s like the tiger would be wood, and the monkey would be metal. The metal can cut down wood. It might be what we’re looking for. I love the image of the tiger. I love both of the images. I think they’re great.
Do you think an actual image of a monkey is missing from these shirts?
I think an image of a monkey could be fun for this year.
Are there any specific types of monkey images we should pay attention to for the Fire Monkey to bring us good luck as we’re entering this year?
I’m looking at my images of monkeys. They can be sweet, but they can be kind of ferocious as a tiger and determined. I would use strong images for this year. I feel like the world needs strong images. The monkey is a leader. The tiger would be the more ferocious leader, but no. There are some very cutesy monkeys, and I just don’t think we’re in a very cutesy place in the world.
The tiger then is actually a good choice.
The alter ego of the monkey could be the tiger.
This current year—it will change in February—was a very clash year for me, because I’m an ox. And the ox clashes with the ram. But, when I saw your email and I was thinking about it, I went back through my life and all the 12 year cycles of monkey years and I thought, “Wow, monkey years were terrific years for me.”
So, maybe you’re kind of a monkey.
Or, I get along well with the monkey. Or there’s a happiness about monkey years. Feel good years.
In that case, these are pretty feel good clothes, so that could potentially work.
Yeah. Yeah! I looked back, 1968 was a monkey year. 1980. 1992. 2004. 1956. Those were feel good years. Those were all monkey years.
I can’t even remember what happened in 2004, but I’ll take your word for it.
Well, the economy was on an upswing. 2004 was when I began studying feng shui. When I work with clients around their homes and I look at individual astrologies, colors in clothing and homes are what we work with to adjust how we feel about life.
If somebody is looking to harness the power of the Fire Monkey, a shirt like this, that has red and bright colors, could be good, then? Are there any other things they can do from a fashion perspective?
The Fire Monkey is metal – and the element that’s lacking this year is water. But, black also relates to water.
Oh, so we’ve got that covered there, too.
We really have. Metal, which is the gold, is monkey. Water would be black. And fire is red. So, I feel like you’ve got it covered.
Great. Maybe these shirts are a good investment for the Year of the Fire Monkey.
Yeah! I really like it because I had a feeling like we might be – in the other years, there’s been so much sameness. I live in Connecticut, so there’s that whole Urban Outfitters thing. And I’m like, “Ugh, enough of this.”
Step it up a notch!
Yeah, let’s be creative again! Happy Fire Monkey Year!
This interview has been edited and condensed.