Dolce & Gabbana has cancelled a catwalk show in Shanghai after an outcry over racially offensive posts on its social media accounts.
The controversy arose after a video posted on the Italian fashion brand’s page on the Chinese social media site Weibo on Monday showed a Chinese model attempting to use chopsticks to eat a pizza, a cannoli and spaghetti.
Weibo users accused the label of trivialising the country’s culture and depicting Chinese women in a racist way. The video was taken down within 24 hours but it had already been shared widely on social media, where the hashtag #BoycottDolce began to circulate.
The accusations of racism and racial stereotyping intensified after what appeared to be an Instagram direct message conversation between Stefano Gabbana and the fashion writer Michaela Phuong was shared by Diet Prada, an Instagram account known for criticising the fashion industry. In the conversation, Gabbana appears to defend the campaign and make derogatory comments about China and Chinese commenters. He also complains about the video being taken down.
Some of China’s biggest celebrities had been billed to attend the catwalk show, but on Wednesday many announced their withdrawal.
“Our mother country is more important than anything, we appreciate the vigour and beauty of our cultural heritage,” said the management of Wang Junkai, a singer in the popular boyband TFBoys, as they announced his withdrawal.
“I love my mother country,” the actor Li Bingbing told her 42 million fans on Weibo.
China’s state media subsequently said the show was cancelled, and reports circulated that the label was forced to pull the event by local authorities.
Even China’s Communist Youth League entered the fray, posting on Weibo that “foreign companies operating in China should respect China and respect Chinese people”.
The actor Talu Wang also posted on Weibo: “Respect is more important than anything.”
Equality campaigners outside the Dolce & Gabbana flagship store in London, in March 2015. The protest was in response to the fashion designers’ ‘insulting slurs’ against same-sex parents and their children. Photograph: Graeme Robertson/Guardian
Dolce & Gabbana has been contacted for comment. The label claimed its account and that of Gabbana had been hacked and that its legal office was “urgently investigating”.
“We are very sorry for any distress caused by these unauthorised posts. We have nothing but respect for China and the people of China,” the company said on Instagram.
This is not the first time the brand has been embroiled in a public outcry of this scale. In April 2017, it published a campaign on Weibo depicting Beijing as an underdeveloped city. The post was deleted after complaints.
In 2015, Gabbana and Domenico Dolce came under fire for calling children born through IVF “synthetic”, adding that they opposed gay adoption and that IVF pregnancies were “chemical offsprings and rented uterus”. Dolce later apologised.
In 2012, Dolce & Gabbana was accused of appropriating racist imagery after it sent models down the catwalk wearing earrings reminiscent of Blackamoor artworks, which have been widely denounced for romanticising the slave trade.