Following its November 2018 PR disaster, Dolce & Gabbana has been proclaimed “resurrected.” The Italian fashion label may have made its way back onto the red carpet in the US and Europe, but it remains canceled in one of its most important global markets: China.
Dolce & Gabbana has been the subject of much speculation as to whether or not it would recover from its now infamous China meltdown and runway show cancellation spurred by Stefano Gabbana’s Instagram rant. The repercussions to the event reverberated globally: the brand not only lost all its celebrity ambassadors and e-tailer presence in China, but was absent from red-carpet events like the Oscars. Kim Kardashian deleted an Instagram post of her wearing the brand after backlash.
But the brand made its way back onto Kim’s Instagram in June with a post that survived, and has been spotted on a growing number of American and British celebrities in recent months.
The impact of the crisis is still being felt in China, however, which is estimated to make up around a third of the brand’s total sales. Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Luxury China 2019 study finds that Q1 2019 social media engagement was down 98% from the same quarter last year.
The brand has proven to be an example of how far and fast the mighty can fall in China. Dolce & Gabbana was previously a social media juggernaut, dominating the total share of Weibo engagement among fashion brands in 2018 with a roster of A-list mainland Chinese celebrities including the boy band TFBoys and actress Dilraba Dilmurat.
After going dark on Weibo until March, it has returned to posting intermittently. But it can no longer drive massive engagement without its celebrity ambassadors, who still aren’t working with the brand for fear of their own reputations. When Story of Yanxi Palace star Charmaine Sheh merely liked a Dolce & Gabbana post on Instagram, which is banned in China, the news made its way back to Chinese social media and led to her own mini Kim K moment. The Dolce & Gabbana Weibo account’s only post featuring celebrities since the crisis has been one about a store reopening in Hong Kong featuring a Hong Kong model named Gaile Lok, who only has about 150,000 Weibo followers.
Dolce & Gabbana also remains eliminated from all major e-tailers in China. 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. Curiously, a Net-a-Porter search for “Dolce & Gabbana” instead of its Chinese name brings up precisely three pairs of sunglasses, but the brand is cut from the site’s official brand list. There are 14 items that appear on a search for Farfetch’s China site, a number far smaller than the 2,300+ pieces listed when searching its US site for the brand.
The brand’s continued banishment is a testament to the strength of China’s online cancel culture, which has proven to not only affect brands’ reputations, but also their bottom line.