Trust matters. And, with Dolce & Gabbana (D&G), the Italian luxury fashion house, having its products withdrawn from Chinese e-commerce sites as a backlash grows against a controversial advertising campaign showing videos a Chinese model struggling to eat pasta and pizza with chopsticks, one wonders what Milan-based D&G was actually thinking.
China represents one of the biggest luxury markets globally. Indeed, according to a recent report by the consultancy Bain & Company, the luxury goods market in mainland China has been forecast to grow by 20%-22% this year, with the country accounting for the bulk of the global growth this year that has been put at 6%-8% and reach €276-€281 billion (c.$313-$319 billion).
And, by 2025 that number could swell to $390 billion (c.$442 billion), the Bain & Company study has posited. Hardly small fry.
Now this all rather resonated with me as this past week I was in Milan, the fashion capital of Italy, and one of the so-called “Big 4” along with New York, Paris and London, attending an event focussed on corporate communications and branding.
It is not the first time D&G has courted controversy. D&G sparked controversy in 2016 when it described an item of footwear in its spring/summer collection a “slave sandal.”
And, last April the brand posted a campaign on Weibo, which depicted impoverished people in run-down areas of Beijing pictured with D&G models ahead of a catwalk show in the city. The images were slammed for stereotyping Chinese history by showing old parts of the city, as opposed to more modern depictions of Beijing.
Local celebrities had called for the brand to be boycotted amid brand crisis deepening when messages allegedly written by D&G co-founder Stefano Gabbana, which included dubious and offensive comments about Chinese people, went viral.