Dolce & Gabbana has cancelled a high-profile catwalk show in Shanghai following an outcry over what many in China perceived to be a racist marketing campaign.
The Italian brand products have now been dropped by e-commerce giants Alibaba, JD and Yoox Net-A-Porter.
Leading Chinese e-commerce platforms Alibaba and JD.com were joined by Suning, VIPshop, Secoo and Netease in dropping the Italian fashion house’s products from sale.
Hong Kong-based luxury department store operator Lane Crawford has also joined Chinese retailers in dropping Dolce & Gabbana products after it offended Chinese partners and internet users this week.
Andrew Keith, president of Lane Crawford, told the Post: “With respect to our customers, we have taken the decision to remove Dolce & Gabbana from all stores in China, online and in Hong Kong.”
The decision would take effect at 1pm on Friday, Lane Crawford said.
Amazon China and Yoox Net-A-Porter have also removed products, with the latter dropping the brand from its Net-A-Porter, Mr Porter and Yoox.com platforms.
Meanwhile, high-profile Chinese celebrities and KOLs including actors Li Bingbing, Chen Kun, Diliraba, Zhang Ziyi and actor-singer Huang Xiaoming were among a host of stars distancing themselves from the brand and vowing not to buy D&G products.
A video posted on Weibo Monday of a Chinese model attempting to eat Italian food with chopsticks was taken down after less than 24 hours, but widely shared on both Chinese social media platforms and Instagram.
The social media storm was made worse by comments attributed to Stefano Gabbana and Dolce & Gabbana’s official Instagram accounts on Wednesday, the day the brand’s #DGTheGreatShow catwalk presentation was scheduled to take place in Shanghai.
In what Dolce & Gabbana claims was the result of a hack, the brand’s social media accounts featured derogatory comments about China and Chinese internet users.
Though quickly removed, screenshots of the comments were widely shared on Chinese social media, along with the trending hashtag #BoycottDolce. The Weibo hashtag #DGTheGreatShowCancelled has been read 540 million times, and mentioned in 74,000 discussions.
This marks the second high-profile outcry over racist messaging from Dolce & Gabbana in only 18 months. A previous #DGLovesChina campaign depicted Beijing in a way that Chinese internet users felt looked backwards and underdeveloped.
Both Gabbana and co-founder Domenico Dolce have been accused of making politically insensitive statements, from referring to babies conceived by in vitro fertilisation as “synthetic”, to refusing to support the right of gay parents to adopt.
The duo has also described gladiator sandals as “slave sandals” and were quick to endorse First Lady Melania Trump.
Gabbana in particular has a history of posting insensitive comments on social media, and came under fire for calling Selena Gomez “ugly” on Instagram in June, and the Kardashian family “the most cheap people in the world” in July.
Though the designer duo have been known for using social media to voice their controversial opinions, upsetting Chinese consumers could have far-reaching commercial consequences.
According to Bain & Company’s latest report on the luxury market, Chinese consumers account for an estimated 33 percent of global luxury goods spend, a share that is likely to hit 46 percent by 2025.
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Seeing as Chinese support can make or break a brand’s performance, how the label manages the controversy will be critical for its future success in the market.
Dolce & Gabbana could not yet be reached in China or Milan for comment.
According to a post published on Dolce & Gabbana’s Weibo account on November 21, the event has been rescheduled, and the brand has apologised for the inconvenience caused.
Dolce & Gabbana reposted Gabbana’s ‘Not Me’ screenshot on its Weibo account, accompanied by the following statement, which mirrors the brand’s post on Instagram: “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 unauthorised posts, comments and direct messages. We have nothing but respect for China and the people of China.”
(Source: Business of Fashion)