This week, Dolce & Gabbana’s high-profile runway show in Shanghai was cancelled due to a racist marketing campaign they released on Instagram and popular Chinese microblogging platform Weibo. The hashtag #BoycottDolce has been trending, and the Weibo hashtag #DGTheGreatShowCancelled has been read 540 million times and mentioned in 74,000 discussions. The videos themselves depict a Chinese model using chopsticks to try eating pizza, spaghetti, and a cannoli. They were taken off Weibo within a day when its users reproached the label of trivialising Chinese culture and pushing racial stereotypes. However, the videos are still up on Instagram.
Note 23/11: D&G has just taken down the videos on Instagram. Here is a version posted on Youtube:
The scandal escalated when an Instagram conversation between Stefano Gabbana and the fashion writer Michaela Phuong Thanh Tranova was publicly shared. In the exchange, Gabbana complains about Chinese commenters and the video being taken down. He also makes various blatant discriminatory remarks about China; some include insults like “China Ignorant Dirty Smelling Mafia” and the use of the stereotype that Chinese people eat dogs as an attempt to call Phuong racist.
After subsequent backlash, the company was quick to make a statement blaming the entire issue on an alleged hacker and claimed that their “legal office is urgently investigating.” Gabbana himself posted a screenshot of the messages between him and Tranova on both Weibo and Instagram, claiming he hadn’t sent them. However, what makes these responses unsound is the fact that Dolce & Gabbana has a history of publicly taking insensitive stances, such as refusing to support gay adoption, minimising the problematic nature of sexual harassment, and selling “slave shoes.” They’d already been criticised in China last April for posting a campaign on Weibo that pictured impoverished people in old areas of Beijing with D&G models.
The brand was reportedly forced to cancel the fashion show in Shanghai by local government authorities. Over 15 Chinese celebrity guests and models have publicly expressed their refusal to attend the event. Some Chinese models who were scheduled to catwalk mocked Gabbana’s hacker claim by using his “Not Me” text to notify their cancellation:
Chinese models who were scheduled to walk for @dolcegabbana’s ‘The Great Show' in Shanghai today mock Stefano Gabbana’s claim of being hacked by using the same “Not Me” text to announce their refusal to participate in the show pic.twitter.com/ttMuSWqmdn
— cdrama tweets (@dramapotatoe) November 21, 2018
Although it is much too soon to tell how impactful D&G’s misconduct will impact their fate in the long run, it is safe to say that losing China as a market will face them with extending commercial consequences; China currently constitutes of 33% of global luxury spend and will likely reach 46% by 2025. As someone who is part of the Chinese community, I am relieved to see that ethics were put over moneymaking in this entire issue. In our present society, prejudicial messages should no longer be turned a blind eye to.
Featured Image by Renan Katayama