Overnight, the hashtag #巴宝莉赚不到我一分钱# (“Burberry won’t get a penny from me”) shot up to the top of the Hot Search list on Chinese Twitter-like platform Weibo. With 42.44 million views and 20,000 engagements, the topic appeared on the 21st of November and reached the top the next day. And it all started with a hot water bottle.
The item in question is a key accessory from Burberry’s Daniel Lee-designed AW23 collection. It includes a rubber hot water bottle with the Burberry EKD, or Equestrian Knight Design logo, as well as a Norwegian woven wool cover. It comes in several colours and patterns and goes for 3,300 RMB (461.46 USD, sold in the US for 410 USD).
Daniel Lee’s first collection marks the British brand’s return to Britishness. The brand has regained popularity in China for its interpretations of British heritage and classic items. The hot water bottle, a winter staple in British homes, debuted at Burberry’s AW23 show earlier this year, where it was also handed out to guests.
Follow-up topics on Weibo over the next few days seem to illustrate a clear timeline of the controversy. On the 22nd, the day the first hashtag went to number 1, “Burberry releases 3,300 RMB hot water bottle” and “Who’s buying the 3,300 RMB hot water bottles” also appeared. The next day there were “Burberry hot water bottle that costs thousands sells well at Plaza 66 Shanghai” and “Some styles of the Burberry hot water bottle have sold out”. On the 24th, “Burberry shop says the 3,300 RMB hot water bottle is very popular” charged to 195,000 views within 24 hours.
Many of the posts and comments joke that they have got the Burberry look for 1% or less of the Burberry price while posting screenshots of Taobao pages of rubber hot water bottles similar to the Burberry one. The expression “luxury brands don’t scam the poor (only the rich)” surfaced again, much like during the Balenciaga hair tie controversy earlier this month. Also like the Balenciaga controversy, the online ridicule did not seem to affect offline sales.