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D&G faces backlash in China over video ad; shopping sites pull brand

The controversy erupted over an ad campaign featuring clips of a Chinese model struggling to eat Italian dishes like spaghetti and cannoli pastry with a pair of chopsticks

Bloomberg 

dolce and gabbana ad campaign, backlash over ad , chinese ad
Dolce & Gabbana in China storm over videos seen as racist. (Photo: screenshot from YouTube channel-Entertainment is Fun)

Thousands of goods have been pulled from China’s biggest shopping websites and calls for a boycott of the brand are gaining traction as an uproar over the Italian fashion house’s Chinese advertising campaign grows.

The high-fashion brand faces a growing storm in after a video campaign it made -- which showed a Chinese model struggling to eat spaghetti with chopsticks -- was criticized as racist and insensitive, and incendiary messages purportedly from co-founder Stefano Gabbana’s Instagram account went viral.

Cross-border e-commerce site Yangmatou said late Wednesday night that it had taken 58,000 products down, saying that “the Motherland is more important than anything else.” Inc. said all items have been removed from its Kaola shopping platforms.

Thousands of goods have been pulled from China’s biggest shopping websites and calls for a boycott of the brand are gaining traction as an uproar over the Italian fashion house’s Chinese advertising campaign grows.

Cross-border e-commerce site Yangmatou said late Wednesday night that it had taken 58,000 products down, saying that “the Motherland is more important than anything else.” Inc. said all D&G items have been removed from its Kaola shopping platforms.

D&G was forced to postpone a fashion show in Shanghai Wednesday hours before it was due to begin as celebrities said they would not attend and models reportedly pulled out. A commentary on the WeChat social media account of China’s People’s Daily newspaper said the Ministry of Culture and Tourism issued a cancellation notice for the event. The commentary also included something of a warning: “If one is not willing to understand China, eventually it will lose the market and the benefits arising from China’s growth.”

The controversy erupted on Wednesday over an ad campaign featuring clips of a Chinese model in a red, sequined D&G dress struggling to eat Italian dishes like spaghetti and cannoli pastry with a pair of chopsticks.

The clips feature traditional Chinese music and a suggestive voiceover from a male narrator, who asks the actress trying to eat the cannoli: “Is it too big for you?”

They were originally posted this week on Weibo, a Chinese microblogging service, and were deleted after a widespread uproar on social media. The clips could still be viewed on the company’s Instagram account.

On Internet giant Group Holding Ltd.’s Tmall shopping portal, a search for D&G in both English and Chinese returned no results, while a check of JD.com’s site also produced no D&G items. and Inc. didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment, while didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the pulled items.

The Italian brand’s troubles come at a time when global luxury brands are increasingly dependent on 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.

Growing Storm

D&G has also being deserted by its spokesmen and celebrities in the fallout. Its ambassadors for the Asia Pacific region -- singer Karry Wang and actress Dilraba Dilmurat, who is of Uigher ethnicity -- ended their contracts with the company. “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” star Zhang Ziyi said that she would also boycott the brand.

Estelle Chen, a Chinese model who walked in this month’s Victoria’s Secret runway show, posted an Instagram message that supported the scrapping of D&G’s show. “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,” Chen wrote.

The backlash intensified after screenshots of messages sent from co-founder Stefano Gabbana’s Instagram account leaked on the platform, including a message exchange that said the videos were posted “by my will.” Another message complained of a “China Ignorant Dirty Smelling Mafia,” according to a widely shared screenshot. The brand said in social media posts that its account and that of Gabbana had been hacked.

“Our dream was to bring to Shanghai a tribute event dedicated to China which tells our history and vision,” Gabbana and co-founder Domenico Dolce said in an emailed statement earlier about the scandal. “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.”

First Published: Thu, November 22 2018. 13:40 IST
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