Is Dolce and Gabbana a problematic fashion brand?

Oh my dear Dolce and Gabbana, you screwed up big time and got what you deserved.

We all know Dolce and Gabbana as the designer duo from Italy but they are so much more than just a normal designer duo. Now, I’m not someone who writes about everything that I feel about a brand, but with Dolce and Gabbana this doesn’t stand true. In no shape or form, do I want to support a brand whose owners are racist and disrespectful. So, without sugar-coating it, let’s get into why Dolce & Gabbana might be the most problematic fashion brand ever.  

Dolce and Gabbana were to showcase their 2019 Alta Moda aka Haute Couture collection in Shanghai, China. The guest list included all of the most prominent figures in the fashion industry in China from fashion editors, celebrities, models, influencers, and many more. To promote the show, Dolce & Gabbana launched a series of social media posts. It all started when people started noticing the ignorant undertones of these post and finally all hell broke loose when they posted the “Eating with a Chopstick” video series. I would not be posting the videos here but if you are interested in watching them, the videos are still up on the brand’s Instagram account or you can see the subtitled version here –

But I do want to break down why and how these videos are racist.

The main overview of the video is a young Asian woman in a sequined red D&G dress and jewels eating Italian food with a pair of chopsticks with a voiceover in Mandarin. The video quickly gained traction and was shared on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform (P.S. Instagram is banned in China) and on other Chinese social media platforms. It quickly became popular on these networks but for all wrong reasons. The topic was literally on the 3 most talked-about topics on Weibo and WeChat. People started noticing the racist undertones of the video and how ignorant and offensive the video actually was. To break it down here is a breakdown of the video:

  1. On Weibo, a user called “manchengkuangzao (满城狂草)” pointed out that the look of this Asian model – tiny eyes and childish smile –is a typical Oriental type that is understood in the Western culture.
  2. The voiceover and the tone used for it has a lot of sexual undertones like when the video featured cannoli, a male narrator asked the model “is it too huge for you?” as well as using the words like deep in a sexual tone. “manchengkuangzao (满城狂草)” also pointed out that the subtitle referred to chopsticks as a “small-stick” tool while called Italian food great and tasty, which made many people feel the brand is arrogant about China’s cultural roots.
  3. The narrator offers seemingly patronizing advice such as “don’t attempt to use the chopsticks as knives” and “just use your chopsticks like pliers.”

If you want to know more, you can read this open letter from Kechen Qiuu –

Things went out of hand when people started commenting on the video regarding how the video might be inappropriate and these comments were deleted.

Further, the Instagram account DietPrada and michaelatranova shared screencaps of Stefano Gabbana’s conversation with Instagram user michaelatranova (Michaela Phuong Thanh Tranova). The screenshots show Stefano using derogatory and racist comments and complaining about the video being taken down on social media sites in China. You can go to Michaela or DietPrada’s Instagram and see the whole conversation. Soon after that, people started sharing the messages they received from Dolce and Gabbana’s official Instagram account.

Soon after, people started messaging the brand regarding the same, the brand replied with derogatory comments. Stefano Gabbana also blocked 
Michaela Phuong Thanh Tranova and started claiming that all this was fake. Things took a turn for the worst when Dolce and Gabbana posted the following on their Instagram account:

The brand took no responsibility for the videos posted, they never apologized, they just defended themselves. This just makes me wonder, is the marketing/PR department at Dolce and Gabbana unaware of the basic concepts of Crisis Management and Cross-Cultural Communication? As a management student and having worked in Social Media Marketing and Digital PR, this is quite literally the first thing that was taught to us. 

All of this led to modeling agencies in China withdrawing their models from the show and A-list Chinese celebrities deciding not to go the show and banning the use of any Dolce and Gabbana products in the future. The brand was also dropped from e-commerce websites and stores in China with an airport duty-free store sharing an image of empty Dolce and Gabbana shelves on Instagram.  Estelle Chan, a French model of Chinese descent, posted this to her Instagram.

View this post on Instagram

To @dolcegabbana and @stefanogabbana

A post shared by Estelle 陈瑜 (@chen_estelle) on

The show had to be canceled. But does this incident make Dolce and Gabbana a problematic brand? The truth is that this is not an isolated event. Dolce & Gabbana has been very controversial even in the past. Here is a timeline of all the times Dolce & Gabbana crossed a line:

Is Dolce and Gabbana a problematic fashion brand?

In the end I would just like to say that what and who we choose to wear, it is our personal choice but I would never support a brand that has no ethical or moral responsibility irrespective of however amazing the products might be.

Is Dolce and Gabbana a problematic fashion brand?
Cover image : Image by graphiknixe from Pixabay