It has become the norm for big fashion houses to host their cruise shows and pre-collections, or to reshow their collections in far flung and more exciting places than the stalwart fashion week cities: New York, London, Milan and Paris. In the last few weeks, there has been Valentino in Tokyo and Miu Miu in Shanghai – both of which drummed up a certain fervour of excitement in the press and created more photo opportunities for these brands.
It was this that Dolce and Gabbana were hoping to achieve with the “Great Show” they planned to host in Shanghai. Now, this show did manage to cause a stir with the press, but unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. Turns out the “Great Show” did not seem so great to those high up in Chinese culture and fashion, as they boycotted the show in their droves due to Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolces’ racist comments.[pullquote]It all started unravelling from the word go – the flood gates opened, and the water just would not stop flowing.[/pullquote]It all started unravelling from the word go – the flood gates opened, and the water just would not stop flowing. In their promo for the show Dolce and Gabbana presented a Chinese model trying to eat traditional Italian food with chopsticks. What this was supposed to represent was a light hearted and comical mix of two cultures coming together; but what it actually showed was a completely tone deaf, stereotyped, racist ideal. It goes without saying that this advert got a lot of criticism from all around the world; this image of the provincial, uneducated Chinese woman is tired and inherently racist. Insta-fashion watchdog, Diet Prada, were the first and most searing commentators on this, by not only breaking the story and providing incriminating screen shots (the only real evidence needed in this day and age), but by then essentially live streaming Dolce and Gabbana’s fall from grace. It did not make for comfortable viewing.
This is the first time we have seen business follow popular opinion in such an extreme way; turns out that the customer is always right. As influencers from around the world took to Instagram with burning Dolce and Gabbana garments as pitchforks all of the major Chinese online retailers dropped them from their sites. As China rapidly becomes the country who spends the most on luxury items, this is not the time to fall out of favour there. Perhaps a lesson to be learnt here is that you cannot look at a country with only dollar signs in your eyes; there needs to be a respect for the fact that as a brand you are creating a service; one that depends on good public opinion if it is to survive.
Can it be argued that a company is more than its two figure heads? Yes, as we have seen in the Topshop/Phillip Green debacle. Millions of dollars were spent, and then wasted, hundreds of people’s work; from the pattern cutters, to the make-up artists to the models that had been cast, have now not be seen or used. And yet, Stefano and Domenico had it coming – so can we really feel that bad for them? It’s been faux-pas, after faux-pas over the last few years – and although up until this point they were still getting the support of the likes of Naomi Campbell and Ashely Graham, hopefully we will see a coming together and a dismissal of ugly attitudes that, quite frankly, have no place in a fashion industry that wants to progress.