It can take decades for a brand to instill trust in consumers, and overseas, it can seem impossible. Now, Italian luxury fashion brand Dolce & Gabbana is discovering just how quickly an effort to court a country can sour.
The offending advertisement showed a stylish Chinese model attempting to eat pizza and other Italian foods like pasta and cannoli with chopsticks, the Chinese utensil. The model’s inability to eat the carbs without guidance is played for laughs. All the while, stereotypical Chinese music plays.
Chinese social media users swiftly accused D & G of racism and cultural insensitivity, believing that the ad was meant to mock and demean Chinese people and their customs. The controversy only worsened when problematic comments sent via co-founder Stefano Gabbana’s Instagram messages went viral. The comments used crude emojis to describe China and its people, implied that they eat dog (a common offensive stereotype).
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As @dolcegabbana prepares to mount their next runway show in Shanghai this coming evening (7:30PM) and the rest of Instagram fawns over what’s sure to be an overly lavish “love letter” to China, we’ll be wondering if we’ll see chopsticks as hair ornaments, take-out boxes as purses, or even kimonos misappropriated as Chinese costume. Time will tell. For now, we’ll let y’all simmer on this DM between Stefano and Dieter @michaelatranova (chronology is reversed in slides). Word has it that they’re still in the process of model casting (over 200 Asian girls scheduled)…wouldn’t let them walk the show if we were their agents lol. Also, curious what the Chinese government will think of their country being called shit basically…especially considering how strict they are on who to allow to enter the country on work visas based on a thorough social media background checks. • #DGTheGreatShow #DGlovesChina #runway #fashionshow #cancelled #racism #dolceandgabbana #altamoda #rtw #dgmillennials #stefanogabbana #shanghai #chinese #china #wtf #dumb #lame #asianmodel #asian #dietprada
The fashion label has disavowed the comments and claimed that their accounts were hacked.
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Our Instagram account has been hacked. So has the account of Stefano Gabbana. Our legal office is urgently investigating. We are very sorry for any distress caused by these unauthorized posts, comments and direct messages. We have nothing but respect for China and the people of China. Dolce & Gabbana 的官方Intragram 账号和 Stefano Gabbana 的 Instagram 账号被盗，我们已经立即通过法律途径解决。我们为这些不实言论给中国和中国人民造成的影响和伤害道歉。我们对中国和中国文化始终一贯的热爱与尊重。
In the past, D & G have faced criticism for how they troll and attack celebrities including Selena Gomez, Elton John, and Miley Cyrus, gay rights, and even children of in vitro fertilization.
In 2016, the company was accused of racism for referring to one of its products as “slave sandals.”
The backlash against Dolce & Gabbana caused the fashion company to cancel a Wednesday Shanghai show that was meant to bolster enthusiasm with the Chinese people.
This came after numerous Chinese celebrities and models pulled out of the event.
“Our mother country is more important than anything, we appreciate the vigour and beauty of our cultural heritage,” said popular idol Wang Junkai’s press team.
Actress Li Bingbing posted on Weibo, ““I love my mother country.”
French-Chinese model Estelle Chen also fired off a sassy, no-nonsense statement denouncing the company’s actions.
Chinese netizens quickly called for a boycott of D & G with some even posting photos and videos of themselves burning, shredding, and flushing their products.
Shanghai director Xiang Kai declared that he had destroyed at least $20,000 worth of his merchandise.
In his words:
The purpose of burning my clothes is to awaken the Chinese people and the Chinese nation,” said Mr. Xiang, who posted photos online of his products in flames. “Some people say you’ve wasted a lot of money. I’m willing to waste this money for the nation’s dignity.
Fashion blogger Bryan Yambao fired his own shots, casting doubt on the company’s hacking claims.
He said “I am having a hard time believing the notion that both social media accounts were hacked, especially when Mr. Gabbana has a proven track record of trolling everyone under the sun….”
The social effects quickly translated to lost business. Online retailers like Alibaba’s TMall, jd.com, secoo.com, and department store Lane Crawford have all pulled Dolce & Gabanna from their shelves and stocks.
Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana posted a video pleading with their Chinese customer around the world to forgive them, but it looks like their efforts are coming too late.