Dolce and Gabbana is over. This was the message sent by the Chinese after a 24-hour social media whirlwind that resulted in public boycotts by Chinese celebrities, videos of Chinese fans and consumers burning D&G garments and ultimately, the cancellation of the brand’s Shanghai fashion show by the Shanghai Bureau of Cultural Affairs. All of this was in retaliation to Stefano Gabbana, designer and namesake of the Italian luxury fashion house, and his racist exchanges via Instagram in argument over blatantly racist advertisements for the D&G Shanghai fashion show. The advertisements are best described as a corporate “ni hao” catcall: unsettling, racist and rooted in a lazy ignorance, featuring a Chinese model who embodies the archaic caricature of a submissive and silent East Asian woman, giggling as she struggles to eat Italian foods with chopsticks. The discomfort is furthered as the Chinese game show host voiceover, whose mispronunciation of Dolce and Gabbana is emphasized as an element of “kitsch,” expounds condescending rhetoric that in direct translation varies from “use those two little sticks to eat the pizza” to “that’s too big for you to handle.”
These advertisements resulted in an immediate outcry and an Instagram DM showdown between Instagram user Michaela Tronova and Stefano Gabbana himself, where it was made clear that Gabbana was a racist as he issued tired insults such as “dog-eater” and “China Ignorant Dirty Smelling Mafia.” The Instagram account Diet Prada (@diet_prada), renowned for calling out fashion copycats, publicized these exchanges, inciting an outrage that swept across social media platforms. What followed was what felt like a testament to the power of the Chinese, a power that Gabbana had underestimated, forcing D&G to abandon its show and issue a half-hearted video apology.