It’s not the first time Italian brand Dolce & Gabbana has shown how tone deaf and culturally insensitive they are, (there was that ad with the simulated rape and others like it) but this time Stefano and Domenico really had their ‘shit hit the fan’, with their wildly insulting and demeaning video campaign for their upcoming Shanghai show.
If you haven’t seen it, take a look below.
Earlier this week, the company released video clips that featured a Chinese model being taught to eat spaghetti, pizza and a cannoli with chopsticks, in advance of “THE GREAT SHOW” a planned extravaganza in Shanghai. Then Stefano Gabbana, company co-founder and designer, appears to have engaged in a bout of insulting name-calling (including suggesting that the Chinese eat dogs) with a critic on Instagram. Mr. Gabbana said his account was hacked. And gave birth to the “Not Me” meme.
The hacking excuse has had almost zero take up, partly due to Mr. Gabbana’s history of hitting back at any criticism of the brand on his Instagram feed.
Since the ‘caca’ hitting the fan, Dolce & Gabbana have released three statements, first saying its accounts had been hacked, then offering words of support for the people who worked on the canceled show and declarations of love for China. But it wasn’t until the end of the week that the founders officially apologised in a video in Mandarin (included at the end of this post). They seemed to have underestimated the importance of Chinese national identity while also overestimating their place in the wider fashion ecosystem.
In the four days since the flare up, the brand has, in no short order:
- Been forced to cancel the show;
- Been excoriated by the Chinese celebrities and models slated to walk in the show;
- Been the subject of videos of consumers burning, destroying and otherwise renouncing their Dolce products;
- Had their physical locations altered, with the label’s storefronts plastered with “Not me” posters mocking Mr. Gabbana’s response to the scandal;
- Disappeared from the site of Chinese e-tail giant Alibaba’s TMall platform as well as jd.com, secoo.com, and department store Lane Crawford, which said customers had been returning the brand’s products;
- Been excoriated in the fashion press and the fashion enthusiast communities, with particularly passionate coverage coming from fashion industry watchdog Diet Prada;
- And increasingly been abandoned by its European and American supporters, including the influencers the brand has expensively wooed over the last few years.
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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
Net-a-Porter, the luxury e-tailer headquartered in London and owned by Richemont, has removed all Dolce products from their Chinese website.
Lucky Blue Smith, a model/influencer with 3.2 million followers on Instagram who has become a millennial Dolce staple, posted a note on his account explaining his decision to skip the show that read in part, “We are all God’s children and we should all be treating EVERYONE, EVERY CULTURE with respect. I will be back to China soon — love you all so much.”
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After what has gone down today and until I have more clarity of the events – I have decided not to participate in the show this evening – I have the upmost respect for the people of china and absolutely love this country. i get beyond excited when i hear i am coming to this side of the world. We are all gods children and we should all be treating EVERYONE, EVERY CULTURE with respect. I will be back to China soon – love you all so much
Then there was the formal apology (in Mandarin) with designers looking like naughty children brought before the principal’s office.
The lesson to be learnt here? Be careful about ill-considered direct online communication (Instagram feuds), the hazards of cultural arrogance, and how quickly an influential group of powerful Influencers can join under one banner and exact swift and powerful retribution.