Humberto Leon is proud of his Chinese Peruvian heritage and is showing it off in a number of different ways.
The cofounder of Opening Ceremony moved back home to Los Angeles and opened a Peruvian Chinese restaurant, and now he’s partnering with McDonald’s to celebrate the Lunar New Year in the metaverse.
Leon has worked with the fast-food chain to create a collection of zodiac animal designs as part of an immersive and interactive experience for fans tied into the Chinese New Year that begins Tuesday.
“Ever since I was young, McDonald’s has been woven into culture,” Leon said. “And for Asian Americans, Lunar New Year is not only a time to celebrate with family and friends, but also gives us the perfect opportunity to share our cultural heritage with people throughout the various communities we call home. Partnering with McDonald’s has been great, given the brand’s ongoing commitment to embracing and celebrating the universality of culture throughout the year, kicking off with Lunar New Year in a way that underscores the creativity and innovation of the Asian American community. To say I’m proud of this collaboration is an understatement as it’s an expression of my identity and the influences that have shaped it, to which I know many will relate.”
Leon said he was excited to have been able to create artwork for all of the zodiac signs, not just the tiger, which is being celebrated this year. “It’s part of my culture and heritage,” he said. Although he was born and raised in America, Leon said he’s the son of immigrants, so he always felt like an immigrant himself.
To him, McDonald’s represents pure Americana. “There’s nothing more American than McDonald’s,” he said. He recalls celebrating his fifth birthday at a McDonald’s, “which was a big deal in 1980.”
So when the restaurant approached him about collaborating on the “McDonald’s Hall of Zodiacs: 2022 Lunar New Year with Humberto Leon,” he was all in. “I’ve never been shy to talk about where I come from,” he said. “And as I get older, I yearn for more of the rituals I grew up with.”
Starting Monday and running through Feb. 15, fans can enter the life-like VR exhibit on AltspaceVR and Spatial platforms to visit the online gallery where Leon’s designs are housed. They can receive horoscope readings looking into the year ahead based on their birth year and zodiac animal. The space was created by fung shui expert and TikTok creator Cliff Tan and is available on mobile and desktop.
In addition, red envelopes — which are traditionally filled with money and symbolize prosperity in Chinese culture — featuring Leon’s Year of the Tiger design will be distributed to customers at select restaurants in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Houston and Atlanta on Tuesday.
“As we again celebrate Lunar New Year with our fans, we are excited to reach them in the fast-paced digital world, and do so in an innovative and meaningful way that is this collaboration and the metaverse,” said Elizabeth Campbell, McDonald’s senior director of cultural engagement. “To partner with the amazing Humberto Leon, a trailblazer and McDonald’s fan who leads with culture to positively impact the fashion industry is definitely a ‘next level’ moment that we hope all enjoy this season.”
The initiative includes a TV spot that features Leon’s reflections on traditions for Lunar New Year. It will air on Asian news channels in English, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.
Last year, McDonald’s celebrated the Lunar New Year with the Asian artist collective 88Rising and a concert with the Chinese hip-hop artist Masiwei. Other popular partnerships have included the annual Gospel tour, which celebrates gospel music and was held virtually last year, as well as one with J. Balvin when he wrote a love letter about the pride of the Hispanic consumers with his song, “Dorado,” which premiered during the Latin Grammy’s, and was made exclusively available through the McDonald’s app.
Campbell said that, for decades, McDonald’s has “celebrated cultural moments, events and holidays because they matter to our fans. We’re always listening and looking for ways to show our fans that what matters to them matters to us. This is, however, our first time celebrating a holiday in the metaverse and Leon was the perfect partner to bring to life traditional motifs, while adding in the bold and modern flavor for which Leon is known. The McDonald’s Hall of Zodiacs features Humberto’s distinctive style and cultural influence, within an immersive VR space that brings an all-new dimension to the Year of the Tiger. We’re hoping to explore this cutting-edge approach for other cultural moments as a way to amplify and elevate diverse voices.”
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Opening Ceremony, the fashion brand Leon created with Carol Lim. “We have a lot of fun things planned,” he said.