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‘D&G Loves China’ Controversy: The Video, the “Racist” Designer, the Canceled Show

“D&G Loves China”, but China doesn’t really love D&G this week.

Manya Koetse

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It started with a controversial promotional video, got really messy when screenshots went viral of a China-bashing online conversation with the alleged Stefano Gabbana, started snowballing when D&G claimed the account was hacked, and ended with the cancellation of Dolce & Gabbana’s big Shanghai show. A classic trending marketing drama has captured the attention of Chinese netizens today.

One of the biggest topics on Chinese social media today is a controversy involving Italian luxury brand Dolce & Gabbana, better known as D&G (Dùjiābānnà 杜嘉班纳 in Chinese), and the cancelation of its high profile Shanghai fashion show that would have taken place on Wednesday night.

 

1: The Video

 

The story starts with the Italian fashion house D&G’s recent campaign series “DG Loves China,” which was launched in order to promote a runway show that was supposed to take place in Shanghai on November 21st.

As part of the campaign, D&G issued multiple videos on social media. One of them shows a Chinese-looking woman – all dressed in D&G – attempting, quite unsuccessfully, to eat a large cannoli bread with chopsticks.

A male Chinese voice over in the video then suggests that the cannoli might be “too big” for the lady (watch one of the videos on Temper Magazine here).

She then takes a small part of the bread with her chopsticks, after which the voiceover says: “Right, now you feel like you’re in Italy, while you are in China.”

The campaign was promoted through Instagram and also went live on Weibo on November 18, using hashtags as #DGLovesChina# and #DGTheGreatShow#. But it was not received very well by many netizens on Chinese social media, with some calling it “outdated and stereotypical,” “racist,” or “disrespectful.”

China-focused fashion publication Temper Magazine notes that this is not the first time for D&G to trigger this kind of controversy in mainland China.

In April of 2017, netizens also reacted angrily to a series of D&G photographs shot in Beijing streets, which featured glam models next to common taxi drivers or impoverished local residents. Many thought the photos purposely showed a more ‘ugly’ side of China, instead of the more glamorous sides of the city.

This week, the D&G videos in question were pulled from Weibo following the criticism. On Twitter, the videos are still available (check one of them in embedded Tweet above to judge for yourself).

 

2: The “Racist” Designer

 

The social media storm snowballed out of control after screenshots of comments attributed to fashion designer Stefano Gabbana went viral on Wednesday, also being reposted by major Chinese state media accounts such as Global Times.

The screenshots were posted by Instagram user Michaela Phuong Thanh Tranova (@michaelatranova), a fashion business student, although it is stil unclear why this Instagram user would have a private Instagram conversation with Stefano Gabbana and whether or not they are acquainted.

Alleged screenshots of conversation with Mr. Gabbana (completely unverified but went viral anyway).

Alleged screenshots of conversation with Mr. Gabbana (completely unverified but went viral anyway).

Despite the lack of context and/or veracity of the conversation, the screenshots, in which the alleged fashion designer uses rambling texts and refers to China as the “land of sh*t” and speaks of “China ignorant dirty smelling mafia”, soon spread on Chinese social media, where many netizens called for a boycott of D&G.

“This is not just a designer, he is one of the creators of D&G,” some commenters said: “The brand literally carries his name.” And: “Congratulations with your bankruptcy.”

 

3: The Cancelled Fashion Show

 

On Wednesday afternoon, Beijing time, Stefano Gabbana published a post on his official Instagram account, in which the designer said his Instagram account had been hacked, adding, “I love China and the Chinese culture. I’m so sorry for what happened.”

Despite the alleged hack of the Gabbana account, news came out on Wednesday that the much-anticipated Shanghai fashion show of D&G, that would take place this evening, had been canceled.

“The fashion show that was planned on November 21st at 20.00 has been rescheduled due to circumstances, we deeply regret any inconvenience caused,” the official D&G account published on Weibo, just some three hours before the show would take place.

The hashtag “DG Show Cancelled” (#DG大秀取消#) had received 340 million 490 million views at time of writing, being one of the top 10 trending topics of this moment.

According to Chinese media, various Chinese celebrities, including Zhang Ziyi (章子怡) and Chen Kun (陈坤) had already refused to attend the show.

On Weibo, many netizens do not believe the claims by D&G that their account had been hacked, saying things such as: “Ha, ha, ha, your show has been canceled, you tried to make money off China, get lost!”

The Sina Fashion Weibo account has since posted photos of the fashion show venue, that is now deserted (images below).

Meanwhile, Instagram user @michaelatranova, who posted the screenshots of the conversation with the alleged D&G designer, posted on Instagram that “we all (not only us Asians) deserve a better treatment from all (fashion) brands that pretend to cater to our needs just to stuff their pockets with our money.”

Many Chinese netizens seem to agree with the Instagram user, as hundreds of Weibo commenters are calling for a China boycott of D&G.

As this story is still developing, feel free to share your view on this below in the poll: do you believe Gabbana’s account was really hacked, do you think it is an excuse, or is it irrelevant?

[Total_Soft_Poll id=”2″]

For an update of this story, please check this article!

By Manya Koetse, with contributions from Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ed Sander

    November 21, 2018 at 1:56 pm

    Regardless of the question if the account was hacked (if it wasn’t we have probably identified the biggest idiot on the planet), the question that I’m wondering about most is: what agency were they using for this campaign?!

    • Avatar

      EVA-04

      November 21, 2018 at 5:50 pm

      I’m not surprised D&G would have a marketing campaign like that with the inferred sexual innuendo, they’re deliberately provocateurs in that regard. But really, where’s the harm? Are we at the point where Intersectionality and Cultural Misappropriation ruin everything?

  2. Avatar

    autraka

    November 22, 2018 at 6:56 am

    Best article I read about this accident. One thing I think is missing is that it is the Chinese models who are preparing for the show decided to quit the show that night. Check out this video http://n.miaopai.com/media/ZG9PxYlMIdYOGSzf-8WT2u3Tjz9MJ4hP

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China Brands & Marketing

About Lipstick King’s Comeback and His ‘Mysterious’ Disappearance

After Li Jiaqi’s return to livestreaming, the ‘tank cake incident’ has become the elephant in the room on social media.

Manya Koetse

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Earlier this week, the return of China’s famous livestreamer Li Jiaqi, also known as the ‘Lipstick King’, became a hot topic on Chinese social media where his three-month ‘disappearance’ from the social commerce scene triggered online discussions.

He is known as Austin Li, Lipstick King, or Lipstick Brother, but most of all he is known as one of China’s most successful e-commerce livestreaming hosts.

After being offline for over 100 days, Li Jiaqi (李佳琦) finally came back and did a livestreaming session on September 20th, attracting over 60 million viewers and selling over $17 million in products.

The 30-year-old beauty influencer, a former L’Oreal beauty consultant, rose to fame in 2017 after he became a successful livestreamer focusing on lipstick and other beauty products.

Li broke several records during his live streaming career. In 2018, he broke the Guinness World Record for “the most lipstick applications in 30 seconds.” He once sold 15000 lipsticks in 5 minutes, and also managed to apply 380 different lipsticks in another seven-hour live stream session. Li made international headlines in 2021 when he sold $1.9 billion in goods during a 12-hour-long promotion livestream for Alibaba’s shopping festival.

But during a Taobao livestream on June 3rd of this year, something peculiar happened. After Li Jiaqi and his co-host introduced an interestingly shaped chocolate cake – which seemed to resemble a tank, – a male assistant in the back mentioned something about the sound of shooting coming from a tank (“坦克突突”).

Although Li Jiaqi and the others laughed about the comment, Li also seemed a bit unsure and the woman next to him then said: “Stay tuned for 23:00 to see if Li Jiaqi and I will still be in this position.”

The session then suddenly stopped, and at 23:38 that night Li wrote on Weibo that the channel was experiencing some “technical problems.”

But those “technical problems” lasted, and Li did not come back. His June 3rd post about the technical problems would be the last one on his Weibo account for the months to come.

The ‘cake tank incident’ (坦克蛋糕事件) occurred on the night before June 4, the 33rd anniversary of the violent crackdown of the Tiananmen student demonstrations. The iconic image of the so-called ‘tank man‘ blocking the tanks at Tiananmen has become world famous and is censored on China’s internet. The control of information flows is especially strict before and on June 4, making Li’s ‘tank cake incident’ all the more controversial.

But no official media nor the official Li Jiaqi accounts acknowledged the tank cake incident, and his absence remained unexplained. Meanwhile, there was a silent acknowledgment among netizens that the reason Li was not coming online anymore was related to the ‘tank cake incident.’

During Li’s long hiatus, fans flocked to his Weibo page where they left thousands of messages.

“I’m afraid people have been plotting against you,” many commenters wrote, suggesting that the cake was deliberately introduced by someone else during the livestream as a way to commemorate June 4.

Many fans also expressed their appreciation of Li, saying how watching his streams helped them cope with depression or cheered them up during hard times. “What would we do without you?” some wrote. Even after 80 days without Li Jiaqi’s livestreams, people still commented: “I am waiting for you every day.”

On September 21st, Li Jiaqi finally – and somewhat quietly – returned and some people said they were moved to see their lipstick hero return to the livestream scene.

Although many were overjoyed with Li’s return, it also triggered more conversations on why he had disappeared and what happened to him during the 3+ months of absence. “He talked about a sensitive topic,” one commenter said when a Weibo user asked about Li’s disappearance.

One self-media accountpublished a video titled “Li Jiaqi has returned.” The voiceover repeatedly asks why Li would have disappeared and even speculates about what might have caused it, without once mentioning the tank cake.

“This cracks me up,” one commenter wrote: “On the outside we all know what’s going on, on the inside there’s no information whatsoever.”

“It’s tacit mutual understanding,” some wrote. “It’s the elephant in the room,” others said.

Some people, however, did not care about discussing Li’s disappearance at all anymore and just expressed joy about seeing him again: “It’s like seeing a good friend after being apart for a long time.”

By Manya Koetse 

Elements in the featured image by @karishea and @kaffeebart.

 

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China Brands & Marketing

Chinese Actor and State Security Ambassador Li Yifeng Detained for Soliciting Prostitutes

Li Yifeng is not exactly living up to his role as spokesperson for the Ministry of State Security.

Manya Koetse

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Chinese actor and singer Li Yifeng (李易峰) went top trending on Chinese social media today. The actor, who previously starred as brand ambassador for the Ministry of State Security and played Mao Zedong in The Pioneer, has been detained for visiting prostitutes.

On January 10 of 2021, China celebrated its very first National Police Day to give full recognition to the police and national security staff for their efforts. For this special day, the Ministry of State Security launched a promo video starring Chinese actor Li Yifeng as the National Police Ambassador (#李易峰国安形象传片#). But today, it turned out that Li might not have been the best man for the job.

Chinese official media reported on September 11 that the 35-year-old actor has been detained for soliciting prostitutes. The hashtag “Li Yifeng Detained for Visiting Prostitutes” (#李易峰多次嫖娼被行政拘留#) received nearly two billion views on Weibo on Sunday; the hashtag “Beijing Police Informs that Li Yifeng Solicited Prostitutes” (#北京警方通报李易峰多次嫖娼#) received a staggering three billion views.

Shortly after the news was announced, various brands for which Li served as a brand ambassador announced that they were no longer working with the actor. Lukfook Jewellery, Mengniu Dairy, Honma Golf, Panerai, Prada, Sensodyne, King To Nin Jiom, and other brands declared that they had terminated their contract with Li (#多个品牌终止与李易峰合作#).

Li rose to fame in 2007 when he participated in the Chinese My Hero talent show. He later debuted as a singer and became a successful actor, starring in various Chinese TV dramas and films. Li became especially popular after starring in Swords of Legends and won an award for his role in the 2015 Chinese crime film Mr. Six (老炮儿). He would go on to win many more awards. One of his biggest roles was starring as Mao Zedong in the 2021 blockbuster The Pioneer (革命者).

According to Global Times, Li was previously announced as one of the celebrities attending the Mid-Autumn Festival Gala on CCTV on Saturday night, but his name was later deleted from the program.

“I had never expected my idol to collapse like this,” some disappointed fans wrote on Weibo.

In a ‘super topic’ community dedicated to the star, some fans would not give up on their idol yet: “Where is the proof? Besides the Beijing police statement, where is the actual proof?”

On Li Yifeng’s Weibo page, where the actor has over 60 million fans, nothing has been posted since September 5.

The Huading Awards, a famous entertainment award in China, announced that they cancelled Li Yifeng’s title of “Best Actor in China” (#华鼎奖取消李易峰中国最佳男主角等称号#).

“He lost all he had overnight,” some commenters wrote. “Celebrities generally get cancelled for two things: one is evading taxes, the other is sleeping around,” one popular comment said: “So in a nutshell, pay your taxes and don’t sleep around.*”

“Why do you even need to see a prostitute when you’re so good-looking?” others wondered.

One Weibo user (@大漠叔叔) wrote: “Have a good head on your shoulders and just remember one thing. It does not matter how good your reputation is, or how many titles you have, how much the audience loves you, how much the fans embrace you, how many awards you get, it won’t protect you. Stay clear-headed, merit does not outweigh faults! You can’t cross the moral bottomline nor cross the boundaries of the law. You can be canceled just like that.”

By Manya Koetse 

* This comment is loosely translated here, but the Chinese is quite funny because the words ‘taxes’ and ‘sleeping’ sound similar. “明星塌房的两个主要原因:一个睡,一个税。 简而言之:该税的税,不该睡的别睡.”

 

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Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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