Dolce & Gabbana's recent video campaign has caused a virulent uproar from consumers and fans alike who have began boycotting the brand since the video went live on the fashion house's instagram. The campaign showed a Chinese model struggling to eat Italian-American foods like spaghetti and a giant cannoli with chopsticks. D&G adds itself to the list of brands who continue to walk on eggshells around the notion of cultural sensitivity and appropriation. Soon after the videos were posted, many of the fashion house's products were pulled from China's biggest shopping website after calls to boycott the brand were initiated. A popular Chinese blogsite, Weibo, began seeing trending topics such as "boycott Dolce" all over the side within 24 hours. Amidst the mess, D&G deleted the videos from their instagram account and released an apology stating that the co-founder Stefano Gabbana had had his instagram account hacked and that it was "not [him]" speaking to the infuriated Chinese fans that were calling him out. D&G also cancelled their high profile Shanghai fashion show amid the accusations.
D&G later apologized via a written text on their Instagram, stating: "Our Instagram account has been hacked. So has the account of Stefano Gabbana. Our legal office is urgently investigating. We are very sorry for any distress caused by these unauthorized posts, comments and direct messages. We have nothing but respect for China and the people of China. -Dolce & Gabbana"
The post is garnered with bashful comments that call out the brand for harbouring such racist beliefs and were thankful that D&G's dirty laundry was finally let out to dry. Many continued to call for a boycott and maintained that the hack was just a scapegoat hoax to protect what was left of the brand's influence on Chinese consumers. One man in particular, Edward Gu, CEO of modelling platform Talentreet, began a public shaming and boycott movement against the Italian fashion house. He pasted the response of Stefano across the window display of a Shangai D&G store. He said in an interview, "I do not believe this brand deserves our respect." He refers not only to the racist ad campaign, but to the inflammatory statements made by Stefano earlier in the week where he called China "'a country of sh*t' and 'ignorant dirty smelling mafia" in an Instagram conversation. According to a popular digital publication Jing Daily, the ad campaign was criticized for "trivializing China's centuries-old culture and depicting Chinese women in a stereotypical and even racist way". The use of the split-up chopsticks was considered improper and again, disrespectful. Are these recent events a surprise or shock though? For many, they point to a dangerous history laced with racism, xenophobia, and homophobia. D&G has a dark past, and the majority of consumers are unaware. According to Out.com, D&G has had bad blood for decades past:
- Canton Road Photo Ban - In January 2012, Dolce and Gabbana ban’s on local shoppers taking photos within or outside of its Canton Road store in Hong Kong spurred protests that resulted in a temporary closure of the store. Protestors took issue with the stipulation that foreign visitors and those from mainland China were exempt with the ban and the label subsequently issued an apology.
- Blackamoor Imagery - That following September, the brand’s Spring 2013 collection was criticized for its inclusion of Blackamoor imagery — racially charged imagery of that is based on caricatures of the black body. Included as prints on dresses as well as earrings, the depictions were described as “elements of traditional Sicilian culture” by the label.
- Gay Parenting - In 2015 the Domenico and Stefano came out against same sex parenting. “We oppose gay adoptions,” they said in an interview. “The only family is the traditional one.” Many, including Elton John, a longtime friend of the brand, called for an apology. Both designers have since apologized with Domenico telling Vogue, “I’ve realized that my words were inappropriate,” and the following year, in a seeming act of contrition, the label produced an assortment of family-themed novelty tees, depicting a range of parental pairings.
- Melania Trump Endorsement - In June of 2017 Stefano Gabbana drew criticisms for the label’s impassioned support of First Lady Melania Trump. In addition to dressing her, Stefano went so far as to call her a #DGWOMAN, undaunted by public outcry.
- Selena Gomez Cyber Bullying - In March of 2018 Stefano called Selena Gomez “ugly” in the comment section of The Catwalk Italia’s Instagram feed. Fans hit back, rightfully calling the comments “cyberbullying.” The designer would go on to mock the characterization.
- Japanese Succession Comment - In April of 2018 Stefano Gabanna told with Reuters that “I don't want a Japanese designer to design for Dolce & Gabbana" regarding succession plans for the brand, prompting accusations of racism on the part of the label. The company has yet to respond.
This scandal may become a catalyst that delivers a powerful blow to the fashion giant. Especially since Chinese consumers account for more than a third of global spending on luxury products. D&G are desperate and have grovelled for forgiveness in a newly released video. Today, Stefano and Dolce posted a clip where they said they wanted to "apologize to all Chinese people around the world." They go on to say, "our families taught us to respect all cultures of the world," Dolce said. "We hope to receive your forgiveness for our cultural misunderstandings."
Unfortunately, the damage has already been done. According to CNN:
"Analysts warned that D&G's apologies may not be enough to prevent a sharp drop in sales in the world's second largest economy. "The damage to the brand in the eyes of Chinese consumers has already been done," said Ben Cavender, a senior analyst at China Market Research in Shanghai. Cavender suggested another risk is that shopping malls in China choose to start shutting down D&G stores. Hung Huang, a prominent Chinese fashion commentator and magazine publisher, said the Italian brand's use of celebrities to help market its products is likely to encounter difficulties. Whilst on social media, people posted videos of themselves burning the brand's clothes or cutting them into pieces and using them to wash their toilets."