Dolce & Gabbana is still “cancelled” in China on the heels of a questionable ad campaign from the Italian design house – featuring a Chinese model eating pizza with chopsticks – and subsequent backlash over racist commentary from one of the brand’s founders. While consumers in the West have not fully sworn off the Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana-founded brand, and in fact, some have seemingly forgotten the scandal altogether, “the impact of the crisis is still being felt in China, which is estimated to make up around a third of the brand’s total sales,” according to Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Luxury China 2019.
The New York-headquartered research and advisory company’s study found that despite “previously [being] a social media juggernaut [in China], dominating the total share of engagement among fashion brands in 2018 on Weibo,” one of the biggest social media platforms in China, things have changed.
For the first 3-month quarter of 2019, Dolce & Gabbana-specific social media engagement was down 98 percent compared to the same quarter last year, L2 found. Widespread Chinese celebrity support has waned significantly and so has consumer engagement.
As for the state of its retail operations, L2 states that “Dolce & Gabbana also remains eliminated from all major e-tailers in China.” For instance, “Searches for the brand on Tmall, JD.com, and VIP.com bring up error messages, and the China sites for Yoox and Net-a-Porter do the same for its Chinese name.” There are 14 items that appear on a search for Farfetch’s China site, compared to “the 2,300+ pieces listed when searching FarFetch’s U.S. site for the brand.”
“The brand’s continued banishment is a testament to the strength of China’s online cancel culture,” one that sees celebrities and brands called out on social media for any number of controversial issues – ranging from copying to cultural insensitivities – and boycotted thereafter, L2’s Liz Flora asserts. While cancel culture has found a welcome home on social media in the U.S., it has also found traction in China, where consumers routinely call upon foreign brands “to conform with ideas the [Chinese Communist Party] deems politically correct,” and take action by way of their wallets and their social media “likes” and follows when they don’t.