Coach, Givenchy, & Versace Each Face Backlash From Chinese Consumers

PHoto: Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images.
It seems like every other day a brand is adding a diversity officer to help avoid cultural and racial missteps. Prada, Gucci, Zara, and even H&M have taken the steps to help eliminate such blindspots. But now it may be time for a few other big time luxury brands to do the same. Coach, Givenchy, and Versace each apologized to Chinese consumers after gaffes in merchandise over the weekend. Today, social media users are calling for customers to boycott Coach and Givenchy over T-shirts each of the brands produced. But first, let's break down one brand misstep at a time.
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On Sunday, Versace issued an apology in an official Weibo post for selling T-shirts that defied China's "One China policy." Versace listed Hong Kong and Macau as countries, although both are special administrative regions of China. Hong Kong, a former British colony, became a special administrative region of China in 1997. This particular gaffe comes at a time of heightened political strife. Tensions between China and Hong Kong have intensified in the past two months with anti-Beijing protests in the city in their 10th week. On Sunday, the demonstrations spilled over from city streets to a sit-in at the airport.
After outcry, Donatella Versace apologized via the Weibo post above, saying: "I am deeply sorry for the unfortunate recent error that was made by our company and that is being currently discussed on various social media channels. Never have I wanted to disrespect China's National Sovereignty and this is why I wanted to personally apologize for any distress that it might have caused." Versace also says the T-shirts were taken off shelves on July 24 and have been destroyed.
But for some, Donatella's apology was not enough. Versace's Chinese ambassador and actress Yang Mi ended her relationship with the Italian fashion house on Sunday, saying "Versace has harmed China's sovereign and territorial integrity," according to a statement posted on the official Weibo account of Jiaxing Xingguang, the actress's studio.
Similarly, after pictures circulated online a T-shirt listing Hong Kong and Taiwan as countries, rather than cities, cries for a Coach boycott grew on Chinese social media. On Monday, Coach’s brand ambassador, Chinese supermodel Liu Wen, said that she would terminate her relationship with the brand for “seriously hurting the Chinese people’s feelings.”
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And finally, Givenchy came under fire as well. The French fashion house is selling a T-shirt for 3990 yuan ($565) on the Chinese version of FarFetch, that features a list of cities and their corresponding countries. Hong Kong is listed as both a city and country, while Taipei’s corresponding country is listed as Taiwan.
CNN is reporting Givenchy ambassador Jackson Yee, member of popular Chinese boy band TFBoys, cut ties with the brand as a result of the gaffe. Givenchy issued an apology on the brand's Instagram account on Monday. “The House of Givenchy wishes to sincerely apologize for this mistake that does not reflect the deep respect it has for its Chinese audiences throughout the world, as well as renew its commitment to pursue its longstanding relationship with the market in the most thoughtful way.”
These gaffes are the latest in a series of cultural missteps by luxury brands in pursuit of Chinese consumers. Last November, Dolce & Gabbana was forced to abruptly cancel plans for a multimillion dollar, one-hour runway show in Shanghai, China – after the brand released a culturally insensitive video in which a Chinese model tried to eat pasta with chopsticks. In response to the social media outcry, designer Stefano Gabbana allegedly posted racist remarks on his personal Instagram, causing China's biggest celebrities to pull out of attending the show.
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