Fashion brand Dolce&Gabbana got blamed for racism by its Chinese customers after using a promotional video, celebrities withdrew from a show planned for Wednesday in Shanghai and the brand withdrew its goods. The damage to the brand will be lasting, says branding expert Shaun Rein, author of The War for China’s Wallet: Profiting from the New World Order to AP.
The Italian luxury fashion house apologized and said both accounts had been hacked. “We have nothing but respect for China and the people of China,” it wrote.
The apology was too late to save a major extravaganza in Shanghai that Dolce&Gabbana had billed as one of its biggest shows ever outside of Italy.
Major Chinese celebrities threatened to boycott the event, which had been scheduled for Wednesday night, and the company finally called it off. Actress Zhang Ziyi, who starred in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” said that the Italian brand had “disgraced itself.”
An analyst said the bad publicity will have a lasting effect.
“It’s the kiss of death for Dolce&Gabbana,” said Shaun Rein, founder and managing director of China Market Research Group in Shanghai. “I expect them to have a real tough time over the next six to 12 months.”
The three promotional videos that led to the Instagram fiasco showed a Chinese woman using chopsticks to eat pizza and other Italian food. Many in China called them racist and full of outdated stereotypes. The videos were previously deleted from the company’s account on Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter.
Rein said it’s a big mistake when westerners come up with creative content but don’t understand how the campaigns will be received by Chinese consumers.
He noted a trend of rising nationalism in China. “So if you, as a western brand, do anything that looks like you are mocking or making fun of Chinese culture, that’s a big no-no,” he said.
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