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D&G: China shopping sites pull products in ad backlash

Shoes with the heels made out of figurines representing Italian fashion designers Domenico Dolce (L) and Stefano Gabbana are displayed at a Dolce & Gabbana shop in Beijing on November 22, 2018

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Dolce & Gabbana products have been pulled from Chinese e-commerce sites as the backlash against a controversial ad campaign grows.

The firm posted videos this week showing a Chinese model struggling to eat pasta with chopsticks.

The brand also apologised for social media posts criticising Chinese people, saying it had been hacked.

The controversy risks alienating D&G from one of the world’s biggest luxury markets.

The Italian firm cancelled its fashion show in Shanghai earlier this week over the issue.

It later said co-founder Stefano Gabbana’s accounts were hacked and used to criticise Chinese people.

“We have nothing but respect for China and the people of China,” the apology message read.

But the backlash continued as retailers in China retreated from the brand.

E-commerce group Secoo Holding said it had pulled Dolce & Gabbana products, while Chinese e-commerce platform Kaola also said it had removed the brand from its site, according to reports.

Alina Ma, associate director of research at market insights firm Mintel, said the Dolce & Gabbana ad left Chinese consumers confused and appeared to show the company did not understand them.

“They want a brand that knows them, that makes them feel that they are important,” Ms Ma said.

“If you are a brand… in China and competing with local and other international brands, if you show you don’t know China, you are not going to appeal to them,” she said.

While the controversy could hurt their business, the long-term impact will depend on how they deal with the fallout.

“If they can show they sincerely want to know the Chinese consumer, want to know the Chinese market, make Chinese consumer feel good… their business may turn around,” Ms Ma said.

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It’s not the first time Dolce & Gabbana has drawn controversy.

Last April the brand posted a campaign on Weibo that showed impoverished people in run-down areas of Beijing pictured with D&G models ahead of a catwalk show in the city.

The pictures were criticised for stereotyping Chinese history by showing old parts of the city, rather than more modern depictions of Beijing.

D&G also caused controversy in 2016 when it called an item of footwear in its spring/summer collection a “slave sandal”.

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