We beg your pardon, say Dolce & Gabbana founders to Chinese

Italian designers apologise in Mandarin after racially offensive posts spark anger in China

Domenico Dolce (wearing glasses) and Stefano Gabbana issued a 1min 30sec video apology on Weibo after a scandal over culturally insensitive clips on Instagram.
Domenico Dolce (wearing glasses) and Stefano Gabbana issued a 1min 30sec video apology on Weibo after a scandal over culturally insensitive clips on Instagram.PHOTO: WEIBO CHANNEL OF DOLCE & GABBANA

BEIJING • The founders of Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana have apologised to Chinese customers as a row over racially offensive posts snowballed, with its products pulled from lucrative Chinese e-commerce platforms.

In an attempt to salvage their reputation in the world's most important luxury market, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana capped a 1min 30sec mea culpa by saying "sorry" in Mandarin in a video posted on a Chinese social media platform last Friday.

"Our families always taught us to respect different cultures across the world and because of this we want to ask for your forgiveness if we have made mistakes in interpreting yours," said Mr Dolce in Italian.

"We want to say sorry to all Chinese across the world, of which there are many, and we are taking this apology and message very seriously," Mr Gabbana added.

The Chinese-subtitled video - the company's second apology over the row - was posted on Weibo, the popular Chinese Twitter-like social media platform where they have close to one million followers.

The controversy marks the latest backpedalling by a foreign company for offending Chinese consumers or the authorities.

Earlier this year, German auto maker Mercedes-Benz apologised for "hurting the feelings" of people in China after its Instagram account quoted exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, seen as a separatist by Beijing. The Foreign Ministry welcomed the apology.

Under pressure from Beijing, a growing number of global airlines and companies have edited their websites to refer to the self-ruling democratic island of Taiwan as "Taiwan, China" or "Chinese Taipei".

Marriott's website in China was shut down by the authorities for a week this year after a customer questionnaire listed Taiwan, Tibet and Hong Kong as separate countries, prompting the hotel chain to apologise and change the wording.

Dolce & Gabbana had earlier last week issued a written apology on Weibo after the scandal prompted Chinese celebrities to boycott the brand's fashion show in Shanghai, which the company then cancelled.

The controversy arose after the brand posted clips on Instagram showing a Chinese woman eating pizza, spaghetti and a cannoli with chopsticks that some deemed culturally insensitive.


But it escalated after screenshots circulated of an Instagram user's alleged chat with the famously volatile Mr Gabbana, who used five smiling poo emojis to describe China and launched insults at the country and its people.

The company said its account and that of Mr Gabbana had been hacked and that its legal office was investigating the matter.

Despite the first apology, the Italian brand's products disappeared from multiple Chinese e-commerce platforms. A spokesman for retail giant Suning.com said it has removed all Dolce & Gabbana products.

The luxury brand also could not be searched on retail giants Taobao and JD.com.

A protester last Thursday targeted the Dolce & Gabbana store in Shanghai, plastering the storefront with the alleged screenshots of Mr Gabbana's conversation.

Chinese social media users were unconvinced by the latest apology, with the video garnering more than 100,000 comments about three hours after it was posted.

"They're bowing their precious heads to the renminbi then," one Weibo user commented on the apology post.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 25, 2018, with the headline 'We beg your pardon, say Dolce & Gabbana founders to Chinese'. Subscribe