Dolce & Gabbana’s presence at the China International Import Expo (CIIE) has sparked controversy in China yet again.
Its ostentatiously decorative stand, contrasting dramatically against the sleek stalls from the likes of Richemont and Kering, has provoked an outcry from event attendees. According to reports on the ground, many guests queried CIIE’s decision to invite the brand, while some media outlets said they would refuse to cover the brand’s appearance at the trade fair. One KOL (吉良先生) even got into hot water for posting images and positive comments about the stand on Weibo. The post has since been deleted, stating he: “never expressed support for the brand.”
It appears that no matter what it does, the Italian brand just can’t seem to shake off its negative image in China—perhaps justifiably so. D&G’s “eating with chopsticks” campaign from November 2018 left the brand’s reputation in tatters: it was removed from Weibo within 24 hours and the following runway show in Shanghai was cancelled. Chinese retailers from Lane Crawford to JD.com promptly pulled the brand from its sites. Afterwards, the brand issued a video apology, but the company posted an expected decline in sales in the Asia-Pacific region in 2019 (but was buoyed overall by other markets which remained strong).
Many netizens are still reeling from the incident and feel like the brand hasn’t repented enough for its missteps. D&G products are still unavailable to purchase from many Chinese retailers including Tmall. Even a comeback Weibo advert in August (starring two virtual models) caused yet another backlash.
Earlier this year, Jing Daily reported that in order for the brand to redeem itself, China at large must forgive them, which to date, hasn’t happened. And now, with global luxury brands so dependent on Chinese spend, this latest grievance does not bode well for Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana and the brand they created. China’s fashion elite have neither forgiven, nor forgotten.