Update as of November 22nd:
It’s worth noting this incident not only impacted D&G’s consumer sentiment in China, but also sales. Under the search keywords “Dolce Gabbana” on Chinese e-commerce sites Tmall, JD.com and Secoo, no products are listed anymore. Yoox-Net-a-porter was the first Western e-commerce platform to pull all D&G goods, as WWD reported. An executive from a major e-commerce company told Jing Daily anonymously that D&G has been selling well on its platform, but depending on how D&G responds, it will take the brand a while to recover sales in China.
Dolce & Gabbana was forced to cancel its first fashion show in Shanghai after its online marketing campaign that was deemed racist by Chinese social media drew the attention of the Chinese government.
China’s Cultural and Tourism Department ordered Dolce & Gabbana to cancel the event in the afternoon of November 21, just a few hours before it was scheduled to take place and amid reports that celebrities were canceling their attendance. The action follows Jing Daily’s initial reporting of the video campaign and the virulent reaction on social media to it.
The brand complied with the request and issued an official cancellation statement on its Weibo account but did not specify the reason for the cancellation.
On Saturday, November 18, D&G released a now-deleted post on China social media platform Weibo to promote its upcoming November 21 runway show in Shanghai. In that and related videos, a young Asian model in a red sequin D&G dress appears to have trouble eating Italian foods such as pizza, pasta, and cannoli with chopsticks but finally figures it out with tutoring from a male narrator. In a particularly garish error in tone, in the video featuring cannoli, the narrator asks the model “is it too huge for you?”
Following online criticism of the campaign, a racist anti-Chinese dialogue between the designer Stefan Gabbana and an Instagram user named @Michaelatranova appeared online. Gabbana used a feces emoji to describe China and wrote: “we live very well without you.” He also claimed he would never take down the racist campaign in China. The company and the designer have since said the account was hacked.
People were infuriated over this exchange and Instagram exploded with comments in English and Chinese criticizing the designers’ alleged wrongdoings.
The internet firewall in China hasn’t stopped the news traveling to Chinese social media and becoming top trending topics on Weibo. By the time of this publication, the hashtag “dgdesigner” has been discussed about more than four million times. The news of Dilraba Dilmurat withdrawing from the show has been discussed over 2 million times. Dilmurat is the brand ambassador of Dolce & Gabbana in China, who walked the fashion show twice.
Other highly-anticipated celebrities followed suit and drop out from the show, taking to Weibo to claim their opposition against the brand. Actor Huang Xiaoming posted on his Weibo: “There is no doubt my country is No. 1.” Actress Zhang Ziyi “D&G brought disgrace on their own head” with a feces emoji mimicking the designer’s alleged original post, her management team pledged that Zhang will of no longer be purchasing or using D&G’s products from today onward.
Many netizens leveraged Weibo to tag relevant government institutions to ban the brand from showing in China or encouraged others to file complaints. A government-backed Weibo account, The Communist Youth League Central responded immediately: “We welcome any foreign companies to invest in China, but they should also respect China and Chinese citizens. This is the bottom line for any companies,” and tagged Dolce & Gabbana looking for an apology.
As of the time of publication, Dolce & Gabbana had not issued an apology or response.
A trio of current or former business partners of the brand painted a picture of its headquarter as highly controlling, “HQ never listens”, said one. While that’s not surprising in the fashion industry, its mainland team might have prevented this.