A day-long controversy has followed Dolce and Gabbana after the Italian luxury brand showed racial insensitivity towards China while promoting an upcoming fashion show in Shanghai.
On the 18th of November Dolce and Gabbana released a promotional video as part of an ad campaign for their upcoming fashion show ‘The Great Show’ in Shanghai. The video portrays a Chinese model being instructed on how to eat traditional Italian food with chopsticks. Upon release the video caused immense outrage within the Chinese public, who criticized Dolce and Gabbana’s video for being an insensitive, stereotypical and condescending representation of Asian women and Chinese culture.
Offence was so widely felt that the promotional video was taken down within less than 24 hours, but the debacle continued on social media. On the 20th November Instagram users sent direct messages to the personal account of Stefano Gabbana, confronting the Dolce and Gabbana co-founder about the video. Gabbana added fuel to the fire and responded to the messages with crass, racist insults about China and Chinese culture. The exchanged Instagram messages were screengrabbed, allowing evidence of the conversation to go viral. The day after the screengrabbed messages were made public, Stefano Gabbana claimed that his personal account was hacked and he was not responsible for the racist messages.
Amidst the chaos many hired models and invited guests announced they would no longer be attending or participating in ‘The Great Show’. Hours before it was scheduled to begin on the 21st November, The Chinese Cultural and Tourism Department forced Dolce and Gabbana to cancel the event. The show was predicted to be an extravaganza that took six months to plan, with up to 1400 invited celebrities and influencers and over 300 runway looks.
Most ironically, ‘The Great Show’ was originally planned as a way of celebrating Dolce and Gabbana’s long-standing relationship with China. According to Vogue, China represents an estimated 30% of the brand’s revenue.
Repercussions for Dolce and Gabbana continued as various Chinese e-commerce platforms and stores stopped carrying the luxury Italian brand, including
www.secoo.com. Chinese influencers and celebrities started posting videos of themselves cutting, burning and destroying Dolce and Gabbana apparel in symbolise their boycotting and Dolce and Gabbana stores in China were vandalized. On the 23rd of November Dolce and Gabbana published a filmed apology to China, and the video was tepidly received.
Dolce and Gabbana presented themselves as lacking true insight into Chinese culture and their Chinese consumer.
The scandal serves as a reminder that every brand – no matter how big or luxurious – has a responsibility to represent any and all cultures with authentic respect, and should never take their loyal customers for granted.