What Is Next for Dolce (& Gabbana) After Their Racist Advertisement?

By Maxine An

Dolce & Gabbana may be without a Gabbana in years to come. Their recent marketing campaign started a huge controversy in China; Dolce & Gabbana were due to host their debut fashion show in China December of 2018. However, their show, titled “The Great Show”, was cancelled after their promotional video, a Chinese model attempting to eat Italian food with chopsticks, was released (and taken down less than 24 hours later). The Chinese were extremely upset, taking offense to the brand’s portrayal of the Chinese culture and its mockery of the Chinese accent while speaking English. How could the directors and producers not have caught that this was a racist advertisement?

Image courtesy of The Guardian

Image courtesy of The Guardian

Not only was the commercial offensive to the Chinese, what made it worse were the insulting comments about the Chinese people made from Stefano Gabbana’s personal Instagram account. In an Instagram conversation with a model, Gabbana called her “China Ignorant Dirty Smelling Mafia,” as well as implying that the Chinese were inferior if they were offended by a girl eating pasta or pizza with chopsticks. These are audacious remarks, especially for someone with a reputation to uphold. Although Gabbana denied having made those comments, it was already too late and the Italian brand was forced to cancel their show in Shanghai. The duo, having realized their mistake, issued a video apology.

In the video, Dolce said, “We also want to apologize to all of the many Chinese people throughout the world. We take this apology very seriously as well as this message.” Gabbana added, “We will never forget this experience and it will certainly never happen again. In fact, we will work to do things better. We will respect the Chinese culture in every way possible.” The video concludes with Dolce & Gabbana both saying, “From the bottom of our hearts, we ask for forgiveness. Sorry.”

However, it does not look like an apology will be enough for this brand to get back its reputation in China. Some crazy ideas have been thrown out as to how to save the Dolce and Gabbana brand from disappearing. The craziest ones have involved the removal of Gabbana from the brand name itself; everything would be owned by Domenico Dolce. Removing Gabbana might save the brand in the eyes of the Chinese, but the whole company is at fault. The advertisement was surely was not just the fault of Gabbana, but  Dolce and the rest of their team as well. Everyone on their side is at fault for their misinterpretation and misuse of the Chinese culture. Gabbana leaving the brand could severely impact their image, but it is definitely understandable given that he was the one who had an indescribable conversation with someone on Instagram. Is it really possible for Dolce & Gabbana to become just Dolce?

Image courtesy of the South China Morning Post

Image courtesy of the South China Morning Post

Moreover, according to Women’s Wear Daily, about 30 percent of the brand’s sales are in China, and this recent fallout could have a disastrous impact on their future revenue. The Chinese spend over $7 billion on luxury brands annually, according to the consultancy McKinsey. The Shanghai Dolce & Gabbana show could have won over possible Chinese consumers, but unfortunately, that did not happen. In fact the very opposite happened, as Chinese e-commerce sites such giant.JD.com boycotted the brand and pulled the Dolce & Gabbana brand from their brick and mortar shops.

Because Dolce & Gabbana has realized the enormous fault in the direction of their advertisement, they can use this bad press as an opportunity to take action and do something good. The press and reporters will be on their tails following their mishap, and they have an opportunity to show the press how they are trying to be more aware of their cultural surroundings. Their apology was very much needed, but obviously it was not enough. Turning bad press into good press can make the brand bounce back, not only in China but around the world.

It is hard to predict what will eventually happen to the Dolce & Gabbana name. What can they do to fix this mess? Where will they end up after all of this is over? Perhaps, if time allows this huge mistake to blow over, the brand will get back on its feet, or maybe drastic measures will have to be taken in order to keep the brand from losing its reputation from the public eye forever.

Dolce & Gabbana may never be the same again, but they have a reputation to uphold and a name to live up to. They surely cannot be stopped by their mistake, and will be looking for ways to overcome this obstacle. Of course, there will still be people who will continue to dislike them for their slip-up, but they have to start back up on the right foot if they want their brand to continue to flourish all over the world.