Dolce & Gabbana Is in Trouble (Again) and Honestly, We're Not Surprised
Dolce & Gabbana and controversy go together like catwalks and celebrity spawn. Like selfies and millennials. Like … you get it.
In June of this year, Stefano Gabbana sparked outrage with some words on Instagram about Selena Gomez’s appearance. Turns out, he thinks she’s ugly. He said as much in a comment on a @TheCatwalkItalia post simply asking which Selena look was the best (they are all fire, for the record).
Rather than apologize after public outcry, he doubled down the next day. “My name is Selena!!! #saysorrytome,” he wrote, mocking concerned Selenators. Pulling a Michelle Obama, Gomez decided to "go high" and not to engage, and the episode seemingly blew over. That is, until he took to social media (again) weeks later to call the Kardashians, "The most cheap people in the world."
Which brings us to this week, when the brand was mired in controversy once again over a series of ads depicting a Chinese model trying (and failing) to eat traditional Italian foods — pizza, a cannoli and spaghetti — with chopsticks. A somewhat patronizing narrator, speaking over stereotypical Chinese music, instructs the model on how to use the chopsticks, as if she wouldn't know. They also mispronounce the brand's name, which CNN, Diet Prada and The Indpendent cite as mocking the way that Chinese people pronounce foreign words.
The videos quickly began trending on Chinese social media platform Weibo, where a parody video of a Caucasian man attempting to eat soup with a knife was also shared, according to CNN. Screenshots of racist Instagram DMs from Stefano Gabbana were also circulated, however both the brand and Gabbana say they were hacked. "Our legal office is urgently investigating," the brand wrote in a statement.
Following the ordeal, several models and celebrity guests backed out of a planned runway show in Shanghai, which was subsequently canceled. Though the brand as well as the designers have apologized for the comments posted by the alleged hackers, they have not issued an apology for the offending videos.
At this point, it feels as though public offense is part of the brand's identity (they even sold #BoycottDolce&Gabbana tees). As Business of Fashion’s Lauren Sherman pointed out earlier this year, "despite the chaos, Dolce & Gabbana’s sales are up." This even after multiple calls for a boycott from the likes of Miley Cyrus, Elton John, Ryan Murphy and many more — including, most recently, Queer Eye's Antoni Porowski.
“With public collaborations come social responsibility,” he wrote on Instagram stories in May after deleting a photo of himself outfitted in the brand. In response to fans who alerted him to Dolce & Gabbana's previous anti-LGBT comments regarding gay couples using IVF treatment, he wrote “I am always open to a peaceful discussion or gentle feedback, not only as a voice for LGBTQIA persons but as a human who cares for equal rights. for ALL of us.”
In other cases, customers have committed to backing away from brands-gone-bad. Just last year, H&M was trampled after an image of a young black boy modeling a sweatshirt that read “Coolest monkey in the jungle” appeared on its website. Shoppers immediately called out the hoodie on social media, and both The Weeknd and G-Eazy canceled their collaborations within hours.
In more than a handful of reports, the incident was mentioned as a possible contributing factor to the H&M's under-performance during the ensuing fiscal quarter — meaning the boycott did have an impact.
This was all despite numerous apologies (all of which were praised for their sincerity in an age when damage-control statements and PR-crafted apologies are often seen as disingenuous) as well as the implementation of new programs meant to increase diversity. Why aren't we seeing a similar impact at Dolce & Gabbana? The outcry is certainly there — as it has been time and again.
Some Hollywood stylists have spoken out spoken out against Dolce & Gabbana. Chris Horan, who dresses teen star Rowan Blanchard, posted a news article about Gabbana’s comments on Gomez to his Instagram Story following the "ugly" debacle in Junewith the caption, “WILL NEVER SUPPORT EVER AGAIN.”
A few days later, at Business of Fashion’s California Conference, powerhouse stylist Karla Welch (who dresses Justin Bieber, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Lorde) said she reassessed outfitting her clients in the brand following the designer's comments. “I had Dolce on the rack for a fitting and said no, those can go away. That’s just mean,” said Welch, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Jason Bolden, whose clients include plenty of Tinsel Town's social-activist actors, like Amandla Stenberg (a longtime LGBTQ activist who recently came out as gay), Yara Shahidi and Mindy Kaling, added, “Not since the beginning of time have you seen Dolce on my rack. Those silhouettes are amazing and they get everyone. But my girls are like, what?.”
Could this be the beginning of a tide turning against the brand? Only time will tell. But time has been pretty easy on them after a laundry list of past offenses. Ahead, a trip down not-so-fond memory lane with fashion's kings of controversy:
- The time Domenico Dolce made incendiary comments about gay couples who choose to become parents. He also referred to children conceived using IVF as "synthetic." He later apologized for the statement.
- The time the brand sold sneakers featuring text that read “Thin & Gorgeous.” Gabbana made fun of a customer who called out the brand for perpetuating a thinness ideal by commenting on Instagram, "darling you prefer to be fat and full of cholesterol ??? I think u have a problem." Nice.
- The time they took on critics who were dismayed at their support of Melania Trump, who is wearing a Dolce & Gabbana black jacket in her official White House portrait.
- The time they named a $2,400 pair of shoes “Slave Sandals.”
- The time they responded to those offended customers with $245 tees reading “#BoycottDolce&Gabbana”
- The time Gabbana body-shamed Lady Gaga. He later apologized.