What Happened: Several weeks ago, fashion industry DJ Michel Gaubert was caught in an online controversy following a social media post which shows him wearing a paper “Asian face” mask and yelling, “Wuhan girls, wahoo!” Following widespread backlash, Gaubert issued two public apologies for his actions.
Now, ahead of Chanel’s Resort 2022 show, Bruno Pavlovsky, the French luxury Maison’s president, stated in an interview with WWD that the house stands by Gaubert and his apology. “Michel is a talented man who’s very respectful of others, and he’s apologized for his actions. He is mortified because he never intended to offend anyone. He’s a long-term partner of the house, and you don’t abandon a partner because of an incident,” said Pavlovsky.
The article was reposted by fashion watchdog @diet_prada and garnered thousands of views and comments. AAPI supporters and fashion activists have come out against Chanel’s stance, while others seemingly shifted their attention to Chanel’s latest show. Comments included condemnations like those from @regardsnorman: “Ok, I guess white people are accepting apologies for us now.”
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The Jing Take: Despite the online uproar against DJ Gaubert and the current rise in hate crimes against Asians globally, Chanel has stood firmly by fashion’s favorite sound maker. The decision, however, is not a surprise and only reflects the Eurocentric structures that allowed DJ Gaubert to think his actions were acceptable in the first place.
Chanel is not just one of the most powerful names in luxury, it is one of the most powerful brands in the world. The brand itself, in addition to its top stakeholders, are protected by their privilege and power. However, this reality is shifting, and executives need to take note. In this case, there is no real threat to Chanel’s bottom line nor seemingly to DJ Gaubert’s career. But what about the next incident and the one after that?
Chanel’s response highlights a bigger issue. The brand, alongside many others, continue to prove that they are lagging to adopt the thinking necessary to reimagine an industry that prioritizes equality. Executives need to begin flexing these muscles themselves, starting with acknowledging their own privilege and understanding how this impacts their business decisions.
The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.