A Cold Winter for Dolce and Gabbana

Encountering backlash for insensitive comments or offensive advertisements is a matter of course in the global market. However, these occurrences are all the more shocking when the company in question is a critically acclaimed international brand. Founded in Milan in 1985, Dolce and Gabbana is a fashion house known for distinct designs. Drawing on floral patterns, Italian history, as well as Catholic imagery, the company has had incredible success in the global market. However, the company is facing criticisms against its marketing campaign geared towards its Chinese clients, as well as Gabbana's overtly racist and offensive comments on Instagram.

Because Dolce and Gabbana is a private company, many of its recent figures are not publicly available. However, in the 2015 fiscal year, ending on March 31st, 2015, the company had revenues of 1.3b Euros. At the time, the company had ambition to open up ten new stores in China alone. In 2018, they have listed 58 stores within China. McKinsey and Company claims that: “Chinese luxury consumers thus account for over RMB 500 billion ($7.4 billion) in annual spending, representing almost a third of the global luxury market. In 2008, when China hosted the Olympics in Beijing, Chinese consumers accounted for only 12 percent of global luxury spending. In the eight years that followed, we estimate that more than 75 percent of the total growth in global luxury spending, over $65 billion, could be attributed to purchases made by Chinese consumers, either at home or abroad.” McKinsey and Company’s claims illustrate China’s importance in the global luxury market. Indeed, while specific numbers of the Chinese market’s impact on Dolce and Gabbana’s revenues have not been publicized, it is important to note that the #DGLovesChina ad campaign comes in conjunction with the growth of the Chinese luxury market and Dolce and Gabbana's expansion across China.

The backlash against Dolce and Gabbana has featured a slew of media releases from prominent figures in the fashion industry. The advertisement, in question, featured a Chinese model, who is seen struggling to eat an Italian dish using chopsticks — all the while, a voiceover is heard, giving her instructions on how to eat the food and mocking her inability to do so. Chinese netizens flocked to claim that the advertisement was culturally insensitive, racist, and implied an inherent superiority in Western cuisine and table etiquette. Under heavy criticism, the company would later delete the advertisements from its Instagram account. However, Gabbana, on his personal Instagram, stated: “It was deleted from Chinese social media because my office is [as] stupid as the superiority of the Chinese … I will say that the country of (poop emoji) (poop emoji) (poop emoji) (poop emoji) (poop emoji) is China …. and you are also quiet that we live very well without you… Chinese Ignorant Dirty Smelling Mafia.” The official Instagram account of the company claims that both the company’s and Gabbana’s accounts were hacked. Furthermore, both lead designers, Dolce and Gabbana, have released a formal apology to their Chinese clients.

While claims of hacking have been made and an apology has been delivered, the damage has already been done. Dolce and Gabbana’s fashion show in Shanghai was canceled due to celebrities declaring that they would not attend and models announcing that they would not walk.  Furthermore, Dolce and Gabbana has already been pulled from many Chinese retail outlets — limiting the company’s already dwindling chances for growth in the Chinese market. While the public lacks numbers as to how this will affect Dolce and Gabbana, with a third of the world’s luxury market eliminated from its revenue, the company will have a very cold winter.