Dolce & Gabbana: Instagram Uproar and China Show Cancellation

November 26, 2018

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 an uproar on social media, as the Italian designer allegedly made some racist remarks about China and its culture. Like everything on social media, the controversial discussion escalated to an unbelievable level. Screenshots of private messages went viral and resulted in hashtags like #BoycottDolce. Additionally, models and guests such as D&G’s 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 cannoli with chopsticks. What should have been a fun ad campaign celebrating the merging of the Italian and Chinese cultures was perceived as offensive to the Chinese and sparked the revolt of the social-media cancel culture.

The Instagram account Diet_Prada has almost one million followers. They wrote that the Dolce & Gabbana video mocks them with a parodied version of what China should be… a gag for amusement. The post had thousands of people trashing the Italian brand in the comments. Even after Dolce & Gabbana stated that their accounts had been hacked and the racist comments about the Chinese were not theirs. Anyway, it is not the first time Stefano Gabbana wreaks havoc with inappropriate comments on social media. Besides, he shared on his page the same private messages he now says he did not write.

Dolce & Gabbana fun campaign with stereotypical Italians.

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. And the Chinese purchasing at home more and more luxury goods. Additionally, China is expected to become the world’s largest economy by 2024. So, it’s needless to say that Dolce & Gabbana will feel a huge blow with the China boycott. Chinese e-tailers such as Alibaba have already removed the Italian brand from their e-shops.

The repercussion and consequences of the Instagram crusade are massive. Firstly, imagine all the hard work of the seamstresses and craftsmen. Secondly, the money and time spent by hundreds of people to put together the catwalk show that did not happen. Lastly, the event in Shanghai would have been the biggest in Dolce & Gabbana’s 33 year-history and was planned to be an hour-long ode to China. 

Dolce & Gabbana fun campaign with stereotypical Italians.

Western culture and China

Of course, a big fashion house should have known better. Dolce & Gabbana should have researched how to best communicate in China. Prior marketing research is crucial with such an important market. It would have shown the brand shouldn’t attempt to be humorous about the Chinese culture and history. In other words, people saw Dolce & Gabbana’s campaign as offensive and a lack of respect in China.

Humorous Dolce & Gabbana campaign with stereotypical Italian women screaming.

D&G signature style

The Italian brand has always played with irony when designing and presenting its collections. Their fashion campaigns show in an exaggerated and fun way the duo’s Italian origins. They shoot stereotypical Sicilian women dressed in black, gesturing and screaming. Likewise, we see 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 Dolce & Gabbana – somewhat silly – humour. Instead, they felt outraged with what they perceived as an injury to their national honour. The world’s becoming a boring place with the help of today’s cancel culture. And the internet is always ready to go on crusades over the smallest things. Having said that, nothing excuses Gabbana’s loss of temper and the racist comments that followed. We seriously do hope he didn’t make them.

Images via Dolce & Gabbana