Italian fashion brand Dolce & Gabbana learned the hard way that offending Chinese citizens has major consequences, as it had to cancel its Shanghai Fashion Show scheduled for Nov. 21 after its “DG Loves China” campaign drew condemnation.
Forewarned last year when its campaign featuring models next to Chinese garbage collectors and street vendors offended Chinese netizens for intentionally depicting “low-class” Chinese people and undermining the country’s rise to the world stage, the luxury fashion house repeated the same offense this year.
Prior to its fashion show, D&G released a series of short videos titled “Eating With Chopsticks,” showing a Chinese model in D&G clothes trying to eat traditional Italian food such as pizza, spaghetti and a cannoli with chopsticks.
Each video is tagged with #DGLovesChina and #DGTheGreatShow.
“DG probably thought it could profess its love for China through humor. But many Chinese in mainland China find these videos neither loveable nor humorous, but downright racist, an intolerable insult to Chinese culture and Chinese people,” notes Helen Raleigh, contributor to The Federalist, an immigrant from China and an immigration policy fellow at the Centennial Institute in Colorado.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) November 21, 2018
Social media pushback was quick and intense, with comments as such as: “Do you know Chinese invented noodles? This is totally stupid.” And “We don’t care for Italian food cause it tastes like sh-t.” The model in the spot was labeled a “traitor” and an “idiot” for not using chopsticks properly.
The situation worsened when D&G founder Stefano Gabbana allegedly responded to the criticisms on Instagram by posting a series of insulting messages. The brand issued a video apology including that Stefano Gabbana’s account had been hacked.
— pinkvilla (@pinkvilla) November 21, 2018
“Over the past few days we have thought very much with great regret to what has happened to us, and what we have done to your country, and we apologise very much. Our families have always taught us to respect the various cultures of the world, and for this we want to apologise if we have made mistakes in interpreting your culture. We also want to apologise to all Chinese people in the world and we take this message very seriously. We have always been very in love with China, we have visited many cities, we love your culture and certainly we still have much to learn, for this we apologise if we made mistakes in the ways we expressed ourselves. We will treasure this experience and certainly it will never happen again, and we will try to do better and we will respect the Chinese culture in all respects. From the depths of our heart we apologize.
Chinese celebrities were not persuaded and announced on Weibo they were boycotting the scheduled fashion show. D&G has since seen its products dropped from Alibaba, JD.com, Yoox Net-A-Porter, Amazon China and other e-commerce sites.
A report from the Boston Consulting Group and Chinese internet giant Tencent projected that by 2024, the compound annual growth rate of China’s personal luxury goods market will reach 6%, and Chinese consumers will contribute 40% of the global luxury goods market, driving the global market by 75%.
The Independent went so far as to say, “White western people and companies such as Dolce & Gabbana feign a respect for China, not because they believe Chinese people are actual human beings deserving of respect, but instead because they are trying to make money from the country’s people, while at the same time, happily reducing them to demeaning oriental caricatures to be gawked at.”
— Hype Malaysia (@HypeMY) November 21, 2018
Social media platforms Weibo and WeChat have been flooded with videos and images of D&G products being destroyed, burned and used to clean floors and line animal litter trays, reports The Drum. Security guards and police officers have been stationed outside Dolce & Gabbana stores in Beijing and Shanghai.”
“Both the Chinese government and many Chinese people believe China’s new status commands a new level of respect, especially from the west,” adds Raleigh. “Thus any slight, whether real or imagined, is often perceived as an intentional denial of China’s righteous place in the world, and results in an outsized reaction.”
Turns out love in retail does not mean never having to say you are sorry.