For brand meltdown read China.
In the space of 48 hours, three major fashion labels crashed and burned in the world’s second-largest economy.
Versace, Coach, and Givenchy have all been forced to apologize for making perceived affronts to China’s national sovereignty with T-shirts listing Hong Kong and Taiwan as separate countries.
On Sunday, Versace was criticized for a T-shirt that implied Hong Kong and Macau, which are Special Administrative Regions, were independent.
Hong Kong, in particular, has become a sensitive subject in mainland China. Asia’s premier financial city has been left paralyzed during two months of pro-democracy protests.
On Monday, images of a 2018 Coach T-shirt that said democratic Taiwan and Hong Kong were not part of China provoked anger online.
Givenchy was also outed for a similar offense when a black T-shirt listed Taiwan and Hong Kong separately from Chinese mainland cities.
So far, the blue-chip brands have tried to minimize the damage over the mistakes which have cost them their high-profile Chinese ambassadors.
Coach pointed out in a statement that the clothes with the “serious inaccuracy” had been pulled, adding it was “fully aware of the severity of this error and deeply regret it.”
The fashion label corrected its website as well after Chinese users shared screenshots online showing Hong Kong in a “find-by-country” drop-down list.
Versace has also apologized. “We love China and resolutely respect China’s territorial national sovereignty,” the Italian group said on its Twitter-like Weibo account.
The controversial T-shirts were removed from its official sales channels and “destroyed.”
Givenchy’s Weibo apology also reiterated its respect for China’s sovereignty, and said the brand “resolutely upholds the One China Principle.”
Chinese users online, though, were still furious.
“There should be no missing part of China – Versace get out of China!” wrote one angry user on Weibo.
Versace’s representative in the country, actress Yang Mi, said she would stop collaborating with the fashion house over the T-shirt incident, saying the brand was “suspected of damaging our country’s national sovereignty.”
Similarly, Coach’s ambassador, Chinese model Liu Wen, said she was terminating her work with the label over its T-shirt blunder.
“At all times, China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity are sacred and inviolable!” she posted on her official Weibo account.
“I love my motherland, and resolutely defend China’s national sovereignty!” she wrote.
And Jackson Yee, a hugely popular singer in boyband TFBoys, also pulled the plug on collaborating with Givenchy.
The three luxury brands are the latest examples of foreign companies that have run afoul of the political sensitivities that go with operating in China’s gigantic market.
In May 2018, American clothing retailer Gap apologized over a T-shirt showing a map of mainland China which omitted Taiwan.
Beijing has always viewed the island as a rebel province awaiting reunification.
Italy’s Dolce & Gabbana also apologized in November after its products were pulled from lucrative Chinese e-commerce platforms over an Instagram post seen in China as culturally offensive.
– reporting AFP