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Dolce & Gabbana Cancelled?!
A Valuable Lesson Learned

 

 
 

 

                                                                                                                        

 

 

 


by Ling Zhu

In November 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.

Lacking 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.

Many Chinese 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.

Following public 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.

With a 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.

Hopefully, this 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.

   
   
   
   
 


 

 
 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

   
   

 

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