Dolce & Gabbana – It’s Backlash In China: Right from Hollywood’s red-carpet award shows to glitzy runaway shows of Paris and Milan, troops of photographers capture social media-worthy shots of pop stars, actors and style bloggers showing off the trendiest looks in fashion. These are seasons when Louis Vuitton, Versace, Gucci, and other luxury fashion houses create a big business from being in the spotlight.
One name that was not present in the glamour parade earlier this year was Dolce & Gabbana. The 1985-born iconic Italian fashion house is still trying to get past the backlash that was caused by one of its marketing campaigns launched in mid-November last year. D&G launched three short videos on Weibo – the widely used Chinese social media network in order to promote its forthcoming runway extravaganza called “The Great Show” to take place in Shanghai.
The ad campaign featured Chinese model Zuo Ye, wearing a sequined red D&G dress, struggling to consume Italian food like pizza, spaghetti, and a giant version of cannoli – with chopsticks, with stereotypical Chinese music playing in the background.
The Chinese narration in the background pronounces the brand’s name: “Dolce & Gabbana“, in an overly exaggerated accent. One of three videos which were all published on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, was captioned as Welcome to the first episode of D&G’s ‘eating with chopsticks’. First up today is how to use this chopstick shaped cutlery to eat your ‘GREAT traditional pizza margherita’.
This move was supposed to be a tribute to China and express the message that “D&G loves China”, however, it failed miserably. The campaign was widely dubbed as being offensive and resulted in a major controversy. It led to a major setback in China for D&G when many retailers pulled out the brand’s products.
Also, D&G had to cancel their upcoming Shanghai show as Chinese A-listers backed out from it. The controversy was further heated up when screenshots started doing the rounds in which designer Stefano Gabbana was shown insulting China using derogatory words, in an Instagram chat. D&G said that the account was briefly hacked and issued a public apology for the advertisement campaign.
The model, Zou Ye, a recent graduate of the South China Agricultural University said that the ad campaign nearly ruined her career. The model received a string of threats and hateful messages online as people saw her as being someone who was trying to make money by disrespecting her own country. However, the model shed some light on the actual scenario and apologized by sharing an 850-word long post on social media.
Zou stated that she felt uncomfortable while on set in Milan and that the shoot was different from what she had initially expected. She said, “I was required to laugh in an exaggerated way, while trying to eat super-sized food with chopsticks.”She also apologized by saying, “I have never thought of disgracing my country; I love my country. I take pride standing on the runway as a Chinese person. I will grow from this experience and will better display the character of a Chinese citizen.”
All this stir caused retailers like Alibaba and JD in China to remove D&G products from their websites. Chinese brand ambassadors and celebrities expressed discontent, while some even resigned from their contracts with D&G.
Furthermore, it also caused demonstrations at the company’s flagship store in Milan, Italy. For a nation that takes deep pride in its traditional values and rich cultural heritage, such poorly made ad concepts are not certain to connect with the targeted audience.
Despite the controversies, China remains a major market for luxury brands that are planning to expand. Consumers in the world’s second-largest economy account for a third of the luxury spending globally and are expected to account for half of the global sales by the year 2025.