SHANGHAI — A multimillion-dollar, one-hour runway show scheduled here by Dolce & Gabbana was abruptly canceled the day of, after insults about China were posted from the Instagram account of designer Stefano Gabbana, leading to the country’s biggest names in fashion and entertainment pulling out of attending the show en masse. The designer and the brand posted on Wednesday afternoon just hours ahead of the planned event saying that the account had been hacked.
In screenshots posted by Diet Prada, the verified account of Stefano Gabbana is seen sending out messages which read, “From now on in all the interview [sp] that I will do international I will say that the country of [series of poop emojis] is China” and “China Ignorant Dirty Smelling Mafia,” among other insults.
The VIP guest list expected to attend the 9 p.m. #DGGreatShow started falling apart as the messages circulated on social media. Actress Zhang Ziyi said she would not attend, posting to her official Weibo account that, “Starting today, Miss Zhang and her team will not buy and use any D&G products.”
Singer Wang Junkai along with actors Li Bingbing, Chen Kun, Dilraba and girl band Rocket Girls 101 also joined in protest. Chinese actor-singer Huang Xiaoming wrote on his official Weibo account, “the motherland is first.”
China Bentley Modelling agency released an official statement to say that 24 of their models who planned to walk in the show were boycotting the event. Multiple models of Chinese heritage posted “not me” on top of their casting photos, including Lynden Ly who said on Weibo that he and others backstage had been up all night rehearsing. He added that while it was the only show he was scheduled to walk this month, he would refuse to do the show.
All 10 of the top search terms trending currently on Weibo have to do with the Dolce and Gabbana controversy.
Both the brand and Gabbana have posted apologies and claimed the messages stem from a hacking.
“My Instagram account has been hacked. My legal office is working on this. I love China and the Chinese culture. I’m so sorry for what happened,” Gabbana wrote on his personal page.
The fashion house also posted on social media saying: “Our Instagram account has been hacked. So has the account of Stefano Gabbana. Our legal office is urgently investigating. We are very sorry for any distress caused by these unauthorized posts. We have nothing but respect for China and the people of China.”
The controversy first began three days earlier when the brand began posting series of three videos entitled “eating with chopsticks” to its social media pages. The videos show an Asian model being told, in Mandarin, how to eat pizza, cannoli and spaghetti by a male voice-over.
The videos rubbed people the wrong way in China, with many in the country taking to social media to call out what they described as sexist and racist undertones. The video depicts an Asian model attempting to eat the cannoli, while the voice-over says “Is it too huge for you?” It also has the model attempt to eat the dishes using chopsticks. In addition, the use of an outdated, market stall-like setting, complete with lantern and awning, also led many Chinese netizens to question if the brand was only interested in portraying a backward image of the country, something which has been a point of contention before.
The video series has remained on the brand’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages, although it no longer appears on the brand’s official account on Chinese social media platform, Weibo. Screenshots of the original Weibo post have been shared widely.
The insults from Gabbana’s account were responses to criticism about the promotional videos. The posted messages said the designer stood by the videos and that it was the local China team that took the ads down, something he did not approve of, before launching into a diatribe against China.
The designer is known to frequently spar on social media with followers over issues such as his vocal support for dressing U.S. First Lady Melania Trump to insults about the singer Selena Gomez.
This is not the first time that Dolce & Gabbana has found itself in hot water in the country as part of its ongoing #DGLovesChina marketing campaign. In April last year, Chinese social media lit up in response to a Dolce & Gabbana advertising campaign shot in Beijing. The shoot featured old neighborhoods in the city rather than the modern cityscape, as the brand had previously done in other Asian cities. At the time, the images from this Beijing advertising campaign were also removed from Dolce & Gabbana’s official Weibo account.
China is a key market for the luxury brand. According to a report released by McKinsey last year, by 2025, 7.6 million Chinese households will represent 1 trillion renminbi in global luxury sales.