What Happened: Widely seen as a gesture to break the ice with the Chinese market after its disastrous campaign in the country two years ago, Dolce & Gabbana launched a new Weibo ad on August 19 that starred two virtual models for its Chinese Valentine’s Day pop-up store. Yet the move caused a backlash from the platform’s netizens, who chose not to let go of the brand’s previous misstep.
The Italian luxury brand’s 2018 “DG Loves China” campaign was accused of promoting outdated stereotypes. Yet it was widely distributed screenshots of racially-charged slurs, supposedly coming from the brand’s co-founder Stefano Gabbana, which led to a national uproar (the company later said that his account was hacked).
Still hurting from the incident, angry netizens didn’t just target the brand this time; they also aimed their outrage at Weibo for pocketing Dolce & Gabbana’s ad money despite its racially-charged history. One angry user said, “Is Sina Weibo so poor that it loses its bottom line?” Another added, “Do you really think the internet doesn’t remember?”
Jing Take: Will Dolce & Gabbana ever redeem itself in China? It doesn’t just depend on the fashion watchers and its target audience; the entire society must forgive the brand — and it will exert pressure from all angles if it’s still angry. As such, fashion media in China has rarely featured the brand’s collections over the last two years, Chinese models won’t walk their runways, and Chinese celebrities, KOLs, and online retailers have cut ties with the brand.
But there is a glimmer of hope for D&G in China: A few young fashion fans actually did appreciate its new line and campaign. At the end of July, through a paid partnership with SuperELLE (a Hearst-published quarterly magazine and digital media platform for millennials and Gen Zers), the brand dressed the media company’s virtual idols, Sam and Liz, in its new collection and won some positive comments on SuperELLE’s Weibo post. However, that blip of positivity is unlikely to sway the rest of China’s internet — at least for now.
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.