Dolce & Gabbana cancel Shanghai runway show after accusations of racism

Fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana walk the runway at the Dolce & Gabbana show during Milan Men's Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2016/17 on Jan. 16, 2016 in Milan, Italy. Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Dolce & Gabbana cancelled a fashion show in Shanghai on Wednesday after a series of advertisements for the brand, in which a Chinese woman struggles to eat pizza, a cannoli and spaghetti with chopsticks, drew condemnation from Chinese celebrities and many people on social media.

The controversy was the number one topic on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform, with more than 120 million reads by mid-afternoon, as celebrities, including Memoirs of a Geisha movie star Zhang Ziyi, posted critical comments about the brand.

Many users said they were annoyed by what they considered the patronizing tone of the narrator in the “Eating with Chopsticks” campaign.

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On Wednesday, the company abruptly cancelled the runway show scheduled for later in the day in Shanghai, apologized and blamed the posts on a hack.

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Each video posted to the social media account depicted a model trying to use chopsticks to eat Italian food with subtitles in the Chinese language.

Screenshots of messages allegedly sent from Dolce & Gabbana’s co-founder, Stefano Gabbana’s Instagram account, leaked on the social media as well.

One of the messages said that the videos were posted “by my will.” And another message complained of a “China Ignorant Dirty Smelling Mafia,” according to the screenshot.

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In a statement, Domenico Dolce & Gabbana said: “Our dream was to bring to Shanghai a tribute event dedicated to China that tells our story and vision. It was not simply a fashion show, but something that we created especially with love and passion for China and all the people around the world who loves [sic] Dolce & Gabbana. What happened today was very unfortunate not only for us, but also for all the people who worked day and night to bring this event to life. From the bottom of our hearts, we would like to express our gratitude to our friends and guests.”

“Our Instagram account has been hacked. So has the account of Stefano Gabbana,” the fashion house said on Wednesday. “Our legal office is urgently investigating. We are very sorry for any distress caused by these unauthorized posts. We have nothing but respect for China and the people of China.”

Gabbana posted a photo of the alleged conversation that came from his hacked account.

“My Instagram account has been hacked. My legal office is working on this. I love China and the Chinese Culture. I’m so sorry for what happened,” he wrote.

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According to Jing Daily, the online videos were initially posted Saturday on Dolce & Gabbana’s Weibo.

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Many people on social media called for a boycott of Dolce & Gabbana and said the brand’s explanation was not enough.

Chinese-French model Estelle Chen, who withdrew from the show, called the actions “disrespectful and racist.”

“You don’t love China, you love money,” she wrote. “China is rich yes but China is rich in its values, its culture and its people and they won’t spend a penny on a brand that does not respect that.”

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This isn’t the first time Dolce & Gabbana ignited controversy.

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In 2016, the fashion brand was criticized on social media for releasing a design that was named “Slave Sandal.”

In 2012, over 1,000 protesters gathered at Dolce & Gabbana’s Hong Kong stores after security guards attempted to stop locals from taking photographs. The brand apologized.

“We understand that the events which unfolded in front of the Dolce & Gabbana Boutique on Canton Road have offended the citizens of Hong Kong, and for this we are truly sorry and we apologize,” a spokesperson for the Italian fashion house told Vogue. “The Dolce & Gabbana policy is to welcome the Hong Kong people and that of the whole world respecting the rights of each individual and of the local laws.”

—With files from Reuters

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