What has really happened?
Dolce & Gabbana have just cancelled their "The Great Show" in Shanghai only hours after an exchange of direct messages between a Twitter user and Stefano Gabbana that caused uproar on social media, as the Italian designer allegedly made some racist remarks about China and its culture. As everything on social media, the controversial discussion escalated to an unbelievable level, with screenshots of the private messages going viral and resulting in hashtags like #BoycottDolce and models and guests such as Ambassadors and local celebrities confirming they would no longer attend the show.
What caused the Instagram controversy?
Dolce & Gabbana had just released their DG loves China campaign on a Chinese social media platform. The campaign showed a Chinese model trying to eat pizza, spaghetti and a cannoli with chopsticks. What should have been a fun ad campaign celebrating the merging of the Italian and Chinese cultures, was perceived by some Chinese as being offensive and sparked the revolt of the social-media PC brigade.
The Instagram account Diet_Prada, with almost one million followers, wrote that the video “mocks them with a parodied version of what China should be… a gag for amusement.” The post had thousands of overly sensitive people trashing the Italian brand in the comments, even after Dolce & Gabbana stated that their accounts had been hacked and the racist comments were not theirs. Anyway, it is not the first time Stefano Gabbana wreaks havoc with inappropriate comments on social media, and he shared on his page the same private messages he now says he did not write.
What will happen to D&G?
The designer duo made a video apologising to the Chinese, but the damage was already done. China's market is gigantic, they were responsible for one-third of all luxury sales this year, with the Chinese purchasing at home more and more luxury goods. China is expected to become the world’s largest economy by 2024, so needless to say that Dolce & Gabbana will feel a huge blow with this boycott. Chinese e-tailers such as Alibaba have already removed the Italian brand from their e-shops. The repercussion and consequences of the Instagram politically correct crusade are massive. Imagine all the hard work of the seamstresses and craftsmen, the money and time spent by hundreds of people to put together the catwalk show that did not happen. By the way, the event in Shanghai would have been the biggest show in D&G’s 33 year-history and was planned to be an hour-long ode to China.
Western culture and China
Of course, a big company like Dolce & Gabbana should have known better. They should have researched about how to best communicate with such an important market, and understand that they shouldn’t attempt to be humorous about the Chinese culture and history as it could be seen as offensive and a sign of lack of respect in China.
D&G signature style
The Italian brand has always played with irony when designing and presenting their collections. Their campaigns show in an exaggerated and fun way the duo’s Italian origins, with stereotypical Sicilian women dressed in black gesturing and screaming, strong matriarchy scenes, Madonnas and other religious symbols, Italian food and music. It is always a bit caricatural, provocative and transgressive, as fashion should be. It is a pity that the Chinese did not understand the designer’s - somewhat silly - humour and instead felt outraged with what they perceived as an injury of their national honour. The world is becoming a boring place with the help of Instagram’s PC police, always ready to go on crusades over the smallest things. Having said that, nothing excuses Gabbana’s loss of temper and the terrible racist comments that followed, which we hope he didn’t make.
Images via Dolce & Gabbana