Chinese e-commerce sites have gotten rid of Dolce & Gabbana products amid a spiraling backlash against an advertising campaign that was described as racist by celebrities on social media.
The ads were released earlier this week to drum up interest in a Shanghai fashion show the Italian brand later canceled. They featured a Chinese woman struggling to eat spaghetti and pizza with chopsticks, sparking criticisms from consumer.
The blunder was worsened when screenshots circulated online of a private Instagram conversation, in which the brand’s designer Stefano Gabbana makes a reference to “China Ignorant Dirty Smelling Mafia” and uses the smiling poo emoji to describe the country. The brand said that Gabbana’s account has been hacked.
Amid the outcry for boycotts, the conflict threated to grow into a big setback for one Italy’s best-known fashion brands in a crucial market, where rivals from Louis Vuitton of LVMH to Kerring’s Gucci are vying to expand.
Chinese customers account for more than a third of spending on luxury products worldwide, and are increasingly shopping for these in their home market instead of on overseas trips.
China’s Kaola, which is an e-commerce platform belonging to China’s NetEase Inc confirmed that it had removed Dolce & Gabbana products while luxury goods retailer Secoo said that it removed the brand’s listings on Wednesday evening.
On Yoox Net-A-Porter, which is owned by Cartier parent Richemont and a leading online high-end retailer, the label’s wares were no longer available on its platforms within China. The company did not issue a comment.
Pages that previously redirected to Dolce & Gabbana items on the e-commerce sites hosted by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and JD.com Inc were no longer available and searches for the brand yielded no results.
After its China missteps rapidly went viral on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform, it apologized in a statement on the site.
Celebrities including “Memoirs of a Geisha” movie star Zhang Ziyi criticized the brand. Singer Wang Junkai said that he had terminated an agreement to be the brand’s ambassador.
An airport duty free shop in the southern Chinese city of Haikou said on the Weibo platform that it had removed all Dolce & Gabbana products from its shelves.
The Communist Party Youth League, the youth wing of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, said on Weibo that “we welcome foreign companies to invest and develop in China…companies working in the country should respect China and Chinese people.”
The gaffe is not the first by Dolce & Gabbana in China, even as it tries to increase its appeal there. It came under fire on social media last year for another series of ads showing the grungy side of the Chinese country.
The unlisted firm does not publish earnings or disclose how much revenue it gets from China.