Dolce and Gabbana (Dùjiābānnà 杜嘉班纳 in Chinese) on 18 November released an advertorial series of “instructional” videos on the usage of chopsticks in the lead-up to the new collection launch set to take place on 21 November in Shanghai instead of birthplace Milan. Parody to some, blasphemy to others: China’s social media fires were lit. What’s next in store… #Protest?
Several Chinese on 21 November took to protesting and boycotting the brand outside its flagship motherstore in Milan. The protesters, including Liu Xingyu — a male model who had appeared in one of the fashion house’s Milan shows, were holding up “Not Me” signs outside the store on the upscale shopping street Via Monte Napoleone.
Given the brand features four physical stores across Shanghai — one of which is located on popular shopping street Huaihai Lu — time will tell if the same type of protest is set to happen there. The brand has more than 40 stores in China, the world’s second-largest market for luxury goods, worth USD $98 billion a year. Many retailers across China and Hong Kong have already taken D&G products off the shelves. It all depends on the following:
Apology accepted? Watch the video released on 23 November, courtesy of the D&G YouTube Channel:
The situation has spiraled like wildfire, with China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 23 November announcing that the D&G disaster by no means is a political affair or government business.
Back To The Beginning
The controversy kicked off when D&G released a now-deleted post on Sina Weibo promoting its upcoming runway show in Shanghai (21 November), boasting the hashtags #DGLovesChina# and #DGTheGreatShow#. In the video, now blocked by the Beijing powers that be, a model wearing a Rita Hayworth red sequin D&G dress appears to have trouble eating Italian food — pizza, pasta and cannoli — with chopsticks, but finally manages to figure it out. In one particular moment during the cannoli-tasting ad, the male narrator in a slightly tasteless tone asks the model: “Is it too big for you?”
Will big brands from now on think twice before calling on China to stage their privately-sponsored shows and launches? Will they manage to walk the fine line between Chinese social media accepted and insta-infuriating?
Cheesy and slightly insensitive: Yes. Morally corrupt: No.
It is in such frantic fashion, tempers not yet calmed all round, au contraire, that 21 November came strolling round the Liberace-styled, yet as it turns out not so liberal-minded, street corner…
Things got really sticky when screenshots of an alleged China-bashing online conversation with Stefano Gabbana went viral on WeChat and Sina Weibo. Subsequently, D&G claimed the brand’s official account had been hacked, yet it proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back as the brand’s big Shanghai show that would have taken place on Wednesday night, got canceled.
For the outpour of negative feedback across Instagram and Sina Weibo, we refer you to our first Temper report on the D&G disaster.
According to What’s On Weibo, the screenshots were posted by Instagram user and fashion business student Michaela Phuong Thanh Tranova (@michaelatranova), though it is remains unclear why and how this particular Instagram user would/ could have had a private Instagram conversation with Gabbana and whether or not they are acquainted.
The Temper take? We go against public opinion and say Gabbana’s account was indeed hacked and consequently digitally altered to support misogynistic racism-claim perfection. If Gabbana did actually write the content as seen in the screenshots… Nononono. A big diva don’t.
The Knife Cuts Both Ways
Celebrities started retweeting and every Key Opinion Leader (China’s term for “influencer”) plus Europe/ U.S.- based influencer on the block felt the need to add their two cents. For the outpour of negative feedback across Instagram and Sina Weibo, we refer you to our first Temper report on the D&G disaster.
Other reactions are more balanced, take for example the following Instagram caption from Susie Bubble, KOL extraordinaire:
“People are getting titillated over the latest and perhaps grandest of Dolce & Gabbana/ Stefano Gabbana mega gaffes resulting in a canceled show in Shanghai (one that reportedly cost 200 million RMB), countless models and celebrities boycotting attendance either out of fear, fake outrage or both and basically a monumental waste of resources, effort and money.
The outrage here isn’t over the eyerollingly trite racism as displayed in the D&G promo videos depicting a model eating spaghetti with chopsticks. It’s so dumb I can’t even be bothered to expend energy on expressing anger towards it.”
De Facto Fashion
- Fact No.1 is that hundreds were put out of work due to a social media issue that spiraled out of control. People lost their livelihoods due to, what Temper and its Chinese associates consider to be, much ado about nothing.
- Fact No.2 is that accusations of cultural appropriation and degradation have become a common attack against any artist or artwork that infuses ideas from another culture, no matter how benignly or thoughtfully or positively or humorously intended. Reinventing a classic or paying tribute in parodying manner… No-go.
Such grave and inditing critiques some five decades ago were only lapped against de facto offensive art — think demeaning caricatures such as blackface or ethnological expositions which literally put indigenous (often caged) people on display. If artists anno 2018 dabble outside their own cultural experiences, they’ve committed a creative sin.
- Fact No.3 is that a major brand such as D&G — no matter what your personal opinion may be, they are still considered a legendary and big brand — choosing to launch its new collection in a country other than its “own” is and always will be a big deal — in fashion land.
The choice reflects how the focus of the luxury fashion market is no longer settled on the Western market, but is also physically shifting to China.
Shifting VS Shifty
Will big brands from now on think twice before calling on China to stage their privately-sponsored shows and launches? Will they take the risk of having their accounts hacked (if the Temper theory is anything to go by) and shows subsequently canceled? Will they manage to walk the fine line between Chinese social media accepted and insta-infuriating?
Will Prada, Chanel, etc., be willing to run the risk, and thus put at risk reputation and representatives and overall Chinese workforce, of engaging in a potential boomerang brand bashing fashion bust?
Fashion is non-restrictive. Fashion is creativity. Fashion is freedom.
Featured Image: Sina Weibo
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After tackling Beijing for some six years where she worked for China International Publishing Group, she spent a moment in time moseying down steep alleyways and writing about their fashionable and underground features in Hong Kong.
Van Paridon most recently managed to claw her way through a Europe-based academic endeavor called "Journalism". 'Tis in such fashion that she has now turned her lust for China Fashion/ Lifestyle and Underground into a full time occupation.
Van Paridon hunts down the latest in Chinese menswear, women’s clothing, designer newbies, established names, changes in the nation’s street scenery, close-ups of particular trends presently at play or of historical socio-cultural value in Chinaplus a selection of budding photographers.
Paired with a deep devotion to China’s urban underground scene, van Paridon holds a particular interest in the topics of androgyny, the exploration of individuality and the power that is the Key Opinion Leader (the local term for “influencers”) in contemporary China.