Dolce & Gabbana (D&G) got three years into hot water over racist ads and remarks with China’s consumers, and the row did not subside, says business analyst Shaun Rein. “It’s probably the only brand that I’ve seen the Chinese stay angry at for so long,” he told CNN.
The brand has not signed a major mainland Chinese name since the incident. For a 2020 Chinese Valentines Day campaign, it used a combination of White and CGI models, dubbed “virtual idols.” And although hiring Chinese celebrity ambassadors and influencers could represent a way to regain trust in the country, it would be “career suicide,” according to Shaun Rein, founder and managing director of China Market Research Group.According to Rein, it is the alleged Instagram messages, rather than the ad campaign itself, that continue to affect the label’s reputation in China. “It’s probably the only brand that I’ve seen the Chinese stay angry at for so long,” he told CNN.The label’s recent moves to sue Diet Prada for defamation have only continued to “keep the story alive,” added Rein, who likened it to the “Streisand effect,” whereby attempts to cover something up only draws more attention to it. The lawsuit, which D&G declined to comment on, has created the impression that Gabbana “was mad that his private correspondence got out,” Rein said, adding that Chinese consumers felt the messages were “the true feelings, potentially, of the founder denigrating the Chinese people” — despite the fact that Gabbana and co-founder Domenico Dolce filmed an apology video shortly after the 2018 incident.Not that the video won them any goodwill at the time. “(It was) like he was trying to save money and his brand, but it wasn’t coming from the heart,” Rein said. “Because again, if you say something publicly but then allegedly say ‘Chinese are s**t’ in private, then who’s going to believe you?”…
The online furor has had real-world ramifications for D&G. In 2018, the brand had 58 boutiques in China, according to NPR. Three years on, its website lists just 47, with shops recently closing in Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu, according to industry publication Business of Fashion.The label remains entirely frozen out of major Chinese e-retailers Tmall and JD.com, both of which pulled the brand from its virtual shelves soon after the 2018 incident. According to Rein, it is unlikely that the platforms will stock the brand anytime soon, as they are “petrified by these nationalistic consumers.”“If you can’t sell on Tmall, you can’t do business in China,” he said, adding: “If I were Dolce and Gabbana, I would take two or three years off from investing in China.”
Shaun Rein is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your (online) meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.
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