The massive Dolce & Gabbana fashion show, which appeared in the 500's, plans to be held in Shanghai today (21 November) was abruptly interrupted.
The Italian luxury house has faced explosive reactions in China over the last few days, starting with a series of ads that announced on its social media accounts promoting the show. Users blamed commercials for trade in Chinese stereotypes, and the furore grew only with an Instagram argument apparently between Stefano Gabana and another user that led to offensive comments about China from Gabana's account. (And Dolce & Gabbana company and Gabana designer claim that his account is hacked and he is not responsible for the reviews.)
In China, many celebrities were to attend the show at once to pull out, issuing similar public statements to support China and making the situation one of the biggest discussion topics on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, where the controversial Dolce & Gabbana published and advertisements. Diet Prada, the Watchdog Watchdog Instagram account, then announced the news that a Chinese agency closed the show, while various sources reported that Chinese state media said the show was canceled.
Dolce and Gabbana have strongly promoted the paywheel line in China, a very important market for luxury brands, accounting for about one-third of all luxury costs on a global scale. Denial is clearly a major blow. What is less clear is whether the Chinese government had any role in fostering online rage, by celebrities or by others.
Dolce and Gabana released a message for Weibo, saying the show will be rescheduled, according to the payroll business. Commenting on whether Dolce & Gabbana or the Chinese authorities have decided to cancel the show today, the company did not address it directly, instead of saying in a statement signed by Gabana and Domenico Dole that the show was intended as a tribute to China, in order to show their "love and passion" for the country.
"What has happened today is very unfortunate not only for us, but for all people who worked day and night to bring this event to life," he added. "From the bottom of our hearts, we would like to express our gratitude to our friends and guests."
It started with Italian food and pieces of chopsticks
The ads that sparked all the controversy reflect the Chinese woman using chopsticks to eat pizza, spaghetti and a huge canola, a sweet pate filled with ricotta. Unhappily struggles on time, and in the video of the canola, the storyteller addresses the Chinese actress, "Is it too big for you?" Dolce and Gabana marked the series "Dining with chopsticks" and marked each ad with # DGLovesChina and #DGTheGreatShow.
The reaction came quickly. On Instagram and Weibo, people have blamed advertisements that they are obsolete, insensitive, or in some cases, ordinary racists, as well as disrespect for women. Dolce & Gabbana deleted the Weibo ads, although they are still on Instagram from this writing.
After that, the situation escalated. On Instagram, the argument started between the verified Instagram profile of Stefano Gabbana, @stefanogabbana, and the user @michaelatranova for the perceived racism of the ads. In the beginning, @stefanogabbana defends the ads, claiming that if people have a problem with them, that's their problem. From there, @stefanogabbana began saying that the Chinese people were eating dogs, that it was not his idea to withdraw the ads from Weibo, and use the emotional smile to describe how he would go to China in the future interview. "China's ignorant dirty scented mafia," says a post on staphino-gabbana.
Gabbana posted a screenshot of the conversation with the words "NOT MEAN" written through it, and said in the title that his account was hacked. "I love China and Chinese culture," he wrote. "I'm very sorry what happened."
Gabana has a history of shining social media, and some in the fashion world have expressed skepticism about allegations that his Instagram account has been hacked. Official account "Dolce & Gabbana" said it was broken and investigated.
Nutrition Prada sent screens of the argument, and the story circled on platforms like WeChat and Weibo. "My own timeline was flooded with this news by noon in Shanghai," writes Jing Zhang at NowFashion. (@michaelatranova set up a message with an argument on the screen of the argument, but was eventually deleted from Instagram for violating the instructions, according to the new post in the @michaelatranova account. The screenshots are still available in the Diet Prada account from this writing.)
Challenges to doing business in China
The Chinese stars scheduled to attend Dolce & Gabbana's extravagant show quickly began to support. Many issued pro-Chinese statements about platforms such as Weibo, which appeared to intensify controversy. At one point, according to the WWD (paywall), all 10 of Weibo's top search terms were linked to the scandal.
"Our mother is more important than anything," said Wang Yunkai, a singer in the hit group TF Boys, as reported by The Guardian. "I love my mother," said actor Li Bingbing. "Respect is more important than anything," another actor, Talu Wang, said.
Chinese celebrities are closely watched by the government, and are often among the first to support China's support and the government's view. They are not always targeted to do so, but they will probably understand that it is in their best interests if they want to continue working in the country. Earlier this year, film star Fan Bingbing disappeared in three months, just to come up with an absurd apology to the government and recognize tax evasion.
Lately, the Chinese government appears to encourage the nationalist feeling, and this latest fiasco may be another opportunity for it. It turned out to be capable of causing anxiety on social media, although in this case there is no clear evidence. Of course, the comments posted on the Gabana Instagram account (hacked or not) were enough to cause real anger.
Regardless of the case, the fiasco is not the first time Dolce & Gabbana to cause controversy in China. In the wake of this latest controversy, there have been calls for a boycott of Dolce & Gabbana in China.
The situation highlights some of the challenges that international brands face when trying to sell them to Chinese buyers and doing more business in the country. "Western brands that want to enter and expand in China should be aware of China's cultural sensibilities," chief editor of Vogue China, Angelika Cheung told WWD (paywall). "Instead of dictating everything from the headquarters, they will get a lot of listening to opinions and seeing their Chinese teams."