Chinese consumers are calling for a boycott of Dolce & Gabbana after the Italian fashion house posted videos that are being criticised as racist and insensitive, setting off a social-media drama that led to the postponement of a Shanghai runway show hours before it was due to start.
The storm intensified after screenshots of incendiary messages sent from co-founder Stefano Gabbana’s Instagram account leaked on the platform and top Chinese talent pulled out of the event.
The videos show a Chinese model struggling to eat Italian dishes like spaghetti and cannoli pastry with a pair of chopsticks. They were originally posted this week on Weibo, a Chinese microblogging service, and were deleted after a widespread backlash.
Dolce & Gabbana has run into trouble as global luxury brands are more dependent than ever on China to drive growth. The country’s consumers spent more than $100bn (€87.7bn) 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 US-China trade war sent jitters across global luxury stocks last month, wiping out some $160bn in market value.
Chinese social media users said the video ads had racist overtones, from the way chopsticks were dismissed as “little cylindrical tools” to the stereotypical look of the model, who was dressed in a red, sequined D&G dress.
The clips feature traditional Chinese music and a suggestive voiceover from a male narrator, who asks the model trying to eat the cannoli: “Is it too big for you?” The ads were part of a campaign to promote the luxury brand’s Shanghai runway show that was scheduled yesterday.