The romance between Dolce & Gabbana and China is over — and as with so many modern relationships, it was all played out on social media. The Italian luxury brand is facing potentially the biggest boycott in fashion history following a disastrous 24 hours from which it will be difficult to return to favour in the Chinese market.

On November 19, Dolce & Gabbana published a promotional video for its event planned for the 21st, featuring a Chinese model attempting to eat Italian food with chopsticks. Though the video was removed from Weibo after 24 hours, a social media storm ensued and led to the surfacing of derogatory comments about China and its internet users attributed to co-founder Stefano Gabbana on his personal Instagram, as well as the brand’s official account, as reported by Diet Prada. It was later announced that the 500-look runway show was cancelled, and the brand and Gabbana claimed that both accounts were hacked.

Retail Boycott

Reported by BOF the noise hasn’t gone unheard. On Thursday, major e-commerce platforms across China — including Tmall, JD.com, Suning Tesco, Netease Koala and Vipshop — removed products from the brand, according to Chinese media.

Luxury specialist online retailer Secoo joined the boycott and has taken down all of the brand’s products on its platform, stating that the company would “always regard social responsibility as a foremost goal to serve [their] consumers.” Fashion rental app Y-closet has also stopped loaning pieces from the brand, and Sephora stores in China have pulled the brand’s beauty products from their shelves.

Later the same day, global e-commerce giant Yoox Net-A-Porter also announced its intention to stop selling Dolce & Gabbana products in the Greater China region, and that they would be monitoring the situation closely and keep further decisions under review.

Searching for Dolce & Gabbana on Farfetch’s China site also showed no results on Thursday evening, though Farfetch declined to clarify or confirm their position regarding the further sale of the brand’s products through its platforms.

we have had customers returning Dolce & Gabbana products to our stores, and we anticipate that there may be further commercial impact to our business. We will continue to monitor the situation and review our future business partnership with the brand,” Andrew Keith, president of the Lane Crawford Joyce

SKP employee who spoke with BoF on condition of anonymity, said the leading chain of luxury department stores has already cancelled a Dolce & Gabbana window display scheduled for next month in both their Beijing and Xi’an stores. Group-buying platform Meituan Dianping has also removed the Dolce & Gabbana store from its directories.

Celebrity Boycott

The company also issued an apology to “China and Chinese people”, but it was not enough to save the event, as models refused to walk in the show and celebrities cancelled their appearances.

Among them was movie star Chen Kun, who arrived in Shanghai on Wednesday morning for the show only to announce later that he would not be going to the event.

Actress Dilireba, who was appointed D&G’s ambassador in February, said on the Twitter-like Weibo service that she would not attend.

“I am proud of the best possible motherland. The motherland is above everything else!” she wrote.
Those sentiments were echoed by singer Karry Wang Junkai, another D&G ambassador.
“The motherland is above everything. We are deeply proud and confident about Chinese culture and spiritual aesthetics. No doubt you are the best!” Wang said in a statement.

Model agency Dongfang Binli said all of its 24 models had pulled out of the show and put a “Not Me” tag on their online profile photos in protest.
Supermodel Jin Dachuan said he would not take part in the show or any staged by the brand in the future.

French-Chinese model Estelle Chen has penned an open letter to the brand and its designer, calling them out for being disrespectful to Chinese culture:

“Now that no one will be wearing any of your 500 looks tonight and that your show is cancelled, you might have some free time to go get educated about respect and equality … You thought you would make money by coming to China and by holding a show while being so disrespectful and racist? You got it all wrong because we aren’t dumb when you say you love China. You don’t love China, you love money. China is rich yes but China is rich in its values, its culture and its people and they won’t spend a penny on a brand that does not respect that.”

New runway darling Chu Wong also shares the same sentiment, and has posted a Chinese proverb on her Instagram in response to Stefano Gabbana’s comments:

“Here are some Chinese culture i want to share(YI ZI QIAN JIN)
The meaning of these four words in Chinese is, every single word that people have spoken is like a thousand heavy gold and you CANNOT take it back easily.”

Chinese Market

Dolce & Gabbana’s trouble comes at a time when global luxury brands are increasingly dependent on China to drive growth. The country’s consumers spent more than $100 billion on high-end purchases last year — almost a third of the global total. Fears that Chinese demand for premium goods was slowing in the face of waning consumer confidence and the ongoing U.S.-China trade war sent jitters across global luxury stocks last month, wiping out some $160 billion in market value.

The brand has over 40 stores in China, the world’s second-largest market for luxury goods.

Social Media and Brand Image

I personally can’t stop wondering when brands and public figures will understand the meaning behind social awareness. Any brand should put effort and thought behind their actions on social media accounts, their representation, actions of the faces of their brand. Everything you do personally will reflect on the image of your brand. And this here is not a science, this is common sense of the generation where social media is heart of everything.

As I have stated earlier, any public figure shouldn’t have personal conversations on any social media channels if there is a risk of not being able to have a responsible grown conversation.

Social media platforms have escalated into the point where it isn’t safe for public or even private figures to have personal conversations as anything you do, say or send might be used against you when its convenient.

This incident is a ideal example to learn from for any brand in any industry. You have to be extremely smart with your social media marketing, you public and private actions, socially aware and responsible what your brand and your personal opinions represent.

Truth and true colors can’t be played anymore as they used to as social media is instant and one wrong move might snowball into something your brand isn’t ready to handle.

Lesson learned, even if no-one actually cares for D&G apology only time can show us the strength of the brand and how they come out of it…

Legal action

Reported by TFL, Dolce & Gabbana’s communications office has taken to threatening legal action against highly-followed social media users that have labeled its founders and the brand as a whole as racist. In cease and desist letters seen by TFL, Dolce & Gabbana’s reps have demanded that any and all “false information” be removed from a handful of users’ accounts in order to alleviate the need for legal action, presumably defamation-centric lawsuits. Of course, the brand’s ability to successfully make such defamation or false light claims in court (as opposed to merely threatening legal action) assumes that there is not any truth to the statements made, since truth is an absolute defense to assertions of defamation.

SaveSave