Dolce And Gabbana goods have disappeared from Chinese e-commerce sites after remarks insulting to China that were apparently made by two of the firm’s Instagram accounts. Searches for Dolce And Gabbana turned up no items on major online retailers such as Alibaba’s Tmall and JD.com.
The company has blamed hackers for the Instagram activity. A duty-free shop at the Haikou Meilan airport on China’s Hainan island posted a photo of empty shelves on its social media account, saying that it had pulled all Dolce And Gabbana products.
It wrote in another post that “Even if our power is small, we have to show our stance. We are proud of being Chinese”.
The moves by retailers came a day after several screenshots were circulated online showing co-founder Stefano Gabbana referring to China with crude terms and emoji as he defended promotional videos that had sparked controversy earlier. The comments were made in a private message exchange with another Instagram user. Separately, the Dolce And Gabbana account used offensive language in another exchange.
The Italian luxury fashion house apologised 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 And 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 the Italian brand had “disgraced itself”. An analyst said the bad publicity will have a lasting effect.
Shaun Rein, founder and managing director of China Market Research Group in Shanghai, said: “It’s the kiss of death for Dolce And Gabbana. 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Many in China called them racist and full of outdated stereotypes.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. Mr Rein said it is a big mistake when westerners come up with creative content but do not 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.
The ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper wrote on Weibo: “China has always been friendly to foreign businesses. But it doesn’t mean there’s no bottom line. There is a deal only when there is respect.”