BEIJING • Fashion brand Zara was recently criticised when one of its advertisements which featured a female Chinese model was accused of "defaming the Chinese".
The ad, titled "Beauty is here", stars a Chinese woman wearing the brand's clothes and aims to introduce new cosmetics. It was released last Friday on the Spanish label's official website.
After Zara shared it on Sina Weibo, China's equivalent to Twitter, some netizens noted that the model had freckles on her face, suggesting that by selecting her, Zara might mean to "defame the Chinese", because a perfect face should be without any freckles.
Some also added that the model in the photo did not appear to be in a good, energetic mood.
"Does Zara mean all Asian girls have freckles on their faces?" read one of the comments which went viral. "Can't believe they picked a freckled face on behalf of Asian females," said another.
Some of the comments, deleted soon after being posted, even suggested Zara might mean to "insult" China, as the Italian brand Dolce & Gabbana (D&G) did last November.
D&G is reeling from a boycott in China after its calamitous advertising campaign of a Chinese woman struggling to eat spaghetti and pizza with chopsticks that was decried as racist.
In the Zara case, however, the majority of the comments voiced support for the label.
"It is OK for anyone to have a freckled face, so why can't a model?" another viral comment read.
Last Saturday, Zara responded that it meant no harm.
The company said photos of the model were taken in an all-natural way, without any software manipulation, and the reactions might just be differences in aesthetics.
By Sunday evening, the hashtag #Zara responds about the Chinese model advertisement# had been read 460 million times on the Weibo platform.
In a bid to calm the situation, state-run media China Daily said in an editorial that those who complained about Zara's new ad might be trying to protect the nation's image but their actions also show "over-sensitivity and a lack of cultural confidence".
It shows they are so afraid of being hurt that they tend to take a defensive gesture against any move they do not understand, it added.
"Cultural confidence is just being promoted by the leadership of this country, and tolerance is an essential part of it. Only when we learn to tolerate each other in terms of aesthetics will cultural confidence be owned by everyone," said the editorial published on China's Daily's website on Sunday.
CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE