by Ling Zhu
2018, Dolce & Gabbana released a series of promo videos on the Chinese
social media platform Weibo, for their first China fashion tour in
Shanghai, inviting A-list Chinese celebrities ranging from actor Chen
Kun to idol group TF Boys, a first for the fashion brand that ended
before it started. The videos featured a Chinese model attempting to eat
Western food using a chopstick, what the narrator referred to in
Mandarin as "small stick like things." This move outraged many Chinese,
in China and abroad.
authenticity and leaning towards stereotypes, the video created a
derogatory view of China, from the ostentatiously red decorations to the
oriental folk music found often in old Hollywood films like
"Thoroughly Modern Millie." The videos were labeled "racist" by the
Chinese. The misuse of chopsticks and the purposeful mispronunciation of
Dolce & Gabbana created an image that the Chinese were a primitive
culture lagging, not knowing how to eat pizza, a rare delicacy found
only in Western countries - cue the laughter.
celebrities who previously worked with D&G have since terminated their
contracts. Actor Chen Kun, who just landed in Shanghai after hearing the
news for the first time immediately purchased a return flight. His
action was praise by Chinese netizens and followed by a wave of other
invited celebrities. It was clear no one was going to attend the opening
Shanghai show - which later got canceled much to the surprise of no one.
outcry, D&G deleted their videos on Instagram and Weibo. But shortly
after, the issue worsened when private messages from D&G cofounder
Stefano Gabbana were leaked, calling the Chinese "ignorant" and "dirty,"
referring to them as
(five poop emojis).
This isn't the
first controversy from the fashion brand. In 2013, the founders, Domenico
Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, were criticized for including racist earrings
that looked like African caricatures in their runway. In 2015, the
founders had mocked homosexual couples - and being openly gay themselves
- for adopting children and using in vitro fertilization. And not
learning from their previous lessons, in 2018, they called out Selena
Gomez for being "ugly," a clear act of cyberbullying.
China did not
take the mockery lightly. Many Chinese have voiced their outrage on
Weibo stating that they would boycott D&G. And on popular media app Tik
Tok, videos showed people throwing away, cutting, and burning hundreds
of thousands of RMB worth of D&G luxury goods. The stores in China
selling D&G have had to stop sales with the influx of people returning
their D&G items.
population of roughly 1.4 billion and an untapped market for
money-making, businesses like D&G should know better than to mock their
potential buyer. It will take a long time before D&G relapses after
failing to open China's money bag.
can also be an important learning experience for China. With a large
population ignorant to their own acts of racism, China did not shy away
from ridiculing African features in their ad on laundry detergent -
featuring a black man being thrown into a washing machine and coming out
Chinese and "clean" - nor in their 2018 Spring Gala skit featuring a
blackface Chinese actress.
From D&G to
China's own mistakes, we should understand that racism is never
tolerated no matter where we are from.