While still being remembered as a “racist” brand by Chinese consumers in the wake of the chopsticks advert debacle in 2018 that was accused of being “disrespectful to the local culture”, Dolce & Gabbana (D&G), the Italian luxury fashion brand’s reputation in China, the market it has been scrambling to regain, is once again on the line. This time, it is the brand’s 2022 Spring Summer campaign that is at the centre of the controversy.
Revealed earlier this February, a series of ready-to-wear pieces full of floral prints, zebra stripes, and embellished denim was presented by models in front of a backdrop with bunches of fruit and vegetables randomly placed on the ground, including some crushed, to accompany the narration that featured a fairy tale about a couple’s honeymoon in Sicily.
Although the commercial does not target audiences in China, the brand has twisted the knife in the wound of Chinese consumers with its “wasteful” treatment of fresh ingredients sparking criticism from netizens, in particular, those based in the Omicron-hit city of Shanghai who have been fighting for food especially fresh vegetables due to weeks of strict local lockdowns.
“Why do they have to smash the food? What a reckless waste given the food shortage amidst the ongoing pandemic,” said a Shanghai-based user in a post on Xiaohongshu (China’s biggest lifestyle-sharing platform).
“People in Shanghai feel insulted, those are the foods we are desperate for.”Users on Xiaohongshu
The unfavourable sentiment has been fuelled by other comments such as “isn’t it the racist brand, how come it’s still in China?” and “whoever buys the brand must have low taste”.
The nation’s backlash against D&G has even extended to third parties including NetEase News (a news and information arm under the Chinese tech firm NetEase) and CITIC (a Hong Kong-based conglomerate) as Internet users are questioning why D&G’s new commercial was approved to appear on the news app’s splash screen ads as well as in the merchant poster put up on the building operated by the latter.
Such a strong public reaction shows that while the brand is far from recovering from its previous PR crisis, the latest episode has undoubtedly further paralysed D&G’s efforts to take back the much-desired market.