Dolce & Gabbana Spark Racism Controversy with #DGLovesChina Campaign [UPDATED]

Videos featuring a model attempting to eat Italian food with chopsticks are not going over well on social media.
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Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana at the Dolce & Gabbana Naked King Secret Show in June 2018. Photo: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana at the Dolce & Gabbana Naked King Secret Show in June 2018. Photo: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

A series of social media posts intended to promote Dolce & Gabbana's upcoming fashion show in China have instead sparked controversy about racism for the Italian fashion brand.

Marked with the hashtag #DGLovesChina, the videos feature an Asian model attempting to eat various Italian foods with a pair of chopsticks. But according to a report by Jing Daily, followers took issue with everything from the "outdated" and "messy" decor in the background to the "stereotypical" look of the model. One video in particular, in which the model attempts to eat a cannoli, has the male narrator asking the female model, "Is it too huge for you?" Another problem, Jing Daily notes, is that "the subtitle referred to chopsticks as a 'small-stick' tool while [it] called Italian food great and tasty, which made many people feel the brand is arrogant about its cultural roots."

The outrage was so swift and widespread that Dolce & Gabbana deleted the campaign from its Weibo account. But despite the fact that the social media outlet is blocked in China, angry users have found their way to the brand's Instagram page as well, leaving comments like, "Well, why do you think you have the right to teach Chinese how to use chopsticks in the rudest and inappropriate way? Really chopsticks? You really wanna play that word?" Back on Weibo, "boycott Dolce" has been discussed over 18,000 times.

Of course, Dolce & Gabbana are no stranger to controversy. The brand has found itself under fire at numerous times, thanks to outspoken (and social media-active) designer Stefano Gabbana, who has fought with celebrities online, called children born from IVF "synthetic children" and once named a shoe the "slave sandal." Indeed, the brand even once issued a "#Boycott Dolce & Gabbana" T-shirt in response to people calling for one after the brand dressed current First Lady Melania Trump, complete with a campaign centered around a fake riot.

Still, it does not bode well for the brand's plans for a fashion show in Shanghai on Wednesday, who are on strike two after their April 2017 #DGLovesChina campaign struck Chinese customers as being equally insulting. In the past, outrage over issues of racism from Chinese customers has caused issues for models Gigi and Bella Hadid, who were accused of mocking Asian facial features in a now-deleted social media video, as well as lingerie giant Victoria's Secret, which faced a number of issues staging its annual fashion show in China last year. The market is a notable one for the luxury world, with Jing Daily referencing a report which claims the Asia Pacific market accounted for some 30 percent of Dolce & Gabbana's sales in 2016.

We have reached out to a representative for Dolce & Gabbana and will update with any further information.

UPDATE, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 8:00 a.m.: The fallout from Dolce & Gabbana's #DGLovesChina campaign continues. WWD reports that the brand's 500-look fashion show scheduled for Wednesday was abruptly canceled after more racist messages — this time reportedly from Stefano Gabbana's personal account — were posted by Diet Prada. In the DMs, Gabbana launched into several racist rants and said that it was the brand's team who pulled down the original videos against his wishes.

Many of the celebrities and models who intended to appear at the show pulled out, with actresses like Zhang Ziyi posting statements like, "Starting today, Miss Zhang and her team will not buy and use any D&G products," to their Weibo accounts. Diet Prada reports that it was the Shanghai Cultural Affairs Bureau which ultimately canceled the show.

For their part, Dolce & Gabbana posted to its own Instagram that both the brand and Gabbana's accounts had been hacked, marking the first time the brand has taken steps so publicly to distance itself from Gabbana's remarks. 

UPDATE, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 9:15 a.m.: Domenico Dolce & Stefano Gabbana have released an official joint statement regarding the cancelation of the #DGLovesChina show. It reads:

"Our dream was to bring to Shanghai a tribute event dedicated to China which tells our history and vision. It was not simply a fashion show, but something we created with love and passion for China and all the people around the world who loves Dolce & Gabbana. What happened today was very unfortunate not only for us, but also for all the people who worked day and night to bring this event to life. From the bottom of our hearts, we would like to express our gratitude to our friends and guests."

It notably does not address any of the racism controversy which sparked this issue in the first place.

UPDATE, Thursday, Nov. 22, 8:00 a.m.: The backlash is starting to affect Dolce & Gabbana's retail presence. Financial Times is reporting that e-commerce companies Yoox Net-a-Porter and Secoo Holdings have both pulled Dolce & Gabbana products from their Chinese sites; JD.com and Alibaba’s Tmall platform no longer show any results for the brand.

In addition, SMG Models, who manage the model in the video which sparked everything off, apologized on its Weibo account, saying that they "resolutely oppose and boycott the D&G designer’s anti-Chinese behaviour" and had no control over the shoot.

UPDATE, Monday, Nov. 26, 10:00 a.m.: Over the weekend, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana released an apology video in Italian, which can be viewed with English subtitles below:

The apology seems mostly aimed at the original videos which sparked the controversy and does not address the comments made by Gabbana over Instagram DM. 

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