Double trouble: Cai Xukun returns as Versace’s global ambassador

Less than a month after Cai Xukun’s (KUN) controversy due to a “forced abortion” scandal, the Chinese pop star has returned as the face of the Italian luxury fashion house Versace. Cai’s Instagram post announcing the news received 1.04 million views. While on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, the topic “Cai Xukun Versace global ambassador” (#蔡徐坤范思哲全球品牌代言人#) shot to number 1 on the Hot Search list with a whopping 650 million views.

Fans rushed to welcome the appointment saying “Welcome back” to Cai. However, it needs to be noted that although Cai was relieved of his duties as ambassador for brands such as Prada after the abortion scandal and received a strongly worded warning from the Beijing Advertising Association, Cai was not “cancelled”. It is speculated that it is because his scandal was an ethical one not a legal one, like those with Li Yifeng and Kris Wu. He continued to release music and stayed active on social media platforms such as Weibo. However, this announcement is the first high-profile luxury brand endorsement since Prada dropped him.

However, many netizens were reminded of a 2019 controversy of Versace’s own, where the luxury label “insulted China”. At the time, the brand produced a T-shirt that listed Hong Kong and Macau as individual countries along with others, instead of regions of China. At the time, ambassador Yang Mi quickly stepped away from the brand. However, Versace attempted to salvage its image in China by recruiting Chris Lee (Li Yuchun) and released a hoodie with a rectified graphic as the controversial T-shirt. This earned the brand praise from state media outlets such as People’s Daily.

Currently, social media is divided by Cai’s fans which has resulted in most Versace items to be sold out online and moving on to physical stores and childrenswear on one side, and those who are still shocked that a controversial celebrity is now an ambassador of a controversial brand. It seems that Versace’s risky move has paid off as Cai’s fans are already mobilised, however, whether others will let go of the past transgressions from both the brand and the ambassador remains to be seen.


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