The Italian designer unveiled the collection, named GucciTiger, on Instagram earlier this month. It includes a selection of ready-to-wear items and accessories for both men and women, all of which feature the animal.
The campaign sees models surrounded by the big cats while enjoying afternoon tea.
In one shot, a woman wearing a tiger-adorned T-shirt holds a teacup while two of the animals stand to her sides. The tiger motifs have been painted onto each of the items by hand.
In the image captions, Gucci highlighted its support of The Lion’s Share Fund – an initiative which aims to protect endangered species – adding that nature and wildlife “are particularly” important to the brand.
The brand said the tigers had been photographed in a safe environment, which was monitored by animal welfare organisation American Humane, and edited into the campaign.
“@americanhumane monitored the set on which animals were present and verified that no animals were harmed. No animals were harmed,” the captions said.
“Tigers were photographed and filmed in a separate safe environment complying to Gucci’s policies and then featured within the campaign.”
The campaign has been criticised by social media users, with many writing in the comments: “Animals are not an accessory”.
“It’s not okay to have wild animals in advertising,” one user said. “The tiger is not a pet,” another wrote.
“Even if the images of this tiger were shot elsewhere, this is not okay,” a third person said, while another added: “Stop using animals for your advertising!”
Animal rights organisation World Animal Protection (WAP) criticised the campaign as “glorifying captive animals”.
In a post to its Facebook page, the non-profit said that “by depicting tigers as mere photo props, Gucci’s fashion campaign encourages consumers to treat them in the same harmful way”.
“We’re urging Gucci to stop glorifying captive wild animals in their campaigns and issue a statement confirming it recognises tigers belong in the wild,” the group said.
“The Year of the Tiger should raise awareness that these incredible animals need respect and protection, not commodification. More tigers live in captivity than the 3,900 remaining in the wild.”
Tigers are currently listed under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species which documents the most vulnerable animals across the world.
“Tigers are under serious threat due to their exploitation as ‘pets’ and tourism selfie-props; use in traditional medicine; poaching; habitat destruction and the climate crisis,” WAP said.
“Whether bred in captivity or captured from the wild, the stress these tigers undergo when forced to pose for photos is immense. By depicting tigers as mere photo props, Gucci’s fashion campaign encourages consumers to treat them in the same harmful way.”
The Independent has contacted Gucci for comment.