A Cold Winter for Dolce and Gabbana

Companies encountering backlash for insensitive comments or advertisements are no new concepts, but these moments are all the more shocking when the company in question is a critically acclaimed international brand. Founded in Milan in 1985, Dolce and Gabanna is a fashion house known for distinct designs, drawing on floral patterns, Italian history, as well as Catholic imagery. Despite its incredible success, however, the company is facing recent challenges regarding its marketing towards their Chinese audience, as well as Gabbana's aggressive and offensive comments on Instagram.

Because Dolce and Gabbana is a private company, many of its recent numbers are not available. However, in the 2015 fiscal year, ending on March 31st, 2015, the company had revenues of 1.3b Euros. Already, 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 of the Chinese market’s growth illustrate China’s importance in the global luxury market. Indeed, while specific numbers of the Chinese market’s importance towards Dolce and Gabbana 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 source of the backlash against Dolce and Gabanna is a slew of media releases from the company and designers. The advertisement, which was initially criticized, featured a Chinese model, who is unable to eat an Italian dish using chopsticks — all the while, a voiceover is heard, giving her instructions and mocking this inability. Chinese netizens flocked to claim that the advertisement was culturally insensitive and racist. Under this heavy criticism and later pulling of the advertisements from Dolce and Gabbana's Instagram account, Gabanna, 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 the company’s and Gabbana’s accounts were hacked. Additionally, both designers, Dolce and Gabbana, have released a formal apology.

While the claims of hacking have been made and the 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 show. Models quit, and public opinion sharply pointed against the company. Furthermore, Dolce and Gabbana has 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, undoubtedly, the company will have a very cold winter.

Sources: Fashion Network, McKinsey (Marketing and Sales and Marketing and Sales), Dolce and Gabbana, CBS News, Instagram