Thought of the day: if someone’s outraged but no one hears about it on social media, does it make a sound?
Dolce & Gabbana recently published images of their latest Chinese campaign to social media. Titled 'DGLovesChina', these images join a similarly-titled series of collections previously shot on the streets of Hong Kong and Japan.
For the Beijing edition, Chinese models pose outside iconic landmarks such as Tiananmen Square and the Great Wall, alongside local Chinese residents and passerbys. Devised as a bit of a love letter to Beijing, these images have instead sparked a massive debate along with anger on Chinese social media, finally resulting in D&G removing all trace of the campaign from Weibo.
The bulk of the outrage stems from the belief that D&G are attempting to depict Beijing as being 'backwards' and well, poor. Described by one Weibo user as an 'intentional distortion' of Beijing's image, the choice of historic landmarks have caused many Chinese netizens to accuse D&G of ignoring the rapid progress and development the capital's undergone in recent years.
In a similar vein, the inclusion of decidedly unglamorous locals and tourists (with nary a street-style blogger in sight) have also caused offence with regards to how the average Beijingers are being represented. In particular, a number of Weibo users pointed out how one woman looked 'low-class' and like a 'peasant' which, yikes, sorry random Tiananmen visitor.
That being said, we totally get how juxtaposing models with everyday people would make it seem like D&G are taking the piss out of them (because frankly, who does look good next to a model?)
“Floral headpieces are
sooooo Coachella circa-2015, amirite?”
In D&G’s defence, it’s actually a bit of no-win situation. If they’d only shot within Sanlitun and Guomao (as one Weibo user suggested), then they’d probably be accused of trying to sanitise Beijing’s image by pretending that its grittier parts don't exist. In fact, D&G could probably even be forgiven for thinking that historic landmarks such as the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and the hutongs are more iconic and distinctively Beijing than, well, Sanlitun.
"No, Beijing really is ugly." (One Weibo user in D&G's defence)
Other locals were also quick to argue that Chinese people who were 'ashamed' of the everyday people depicted in the images were the ones who were actually discriminating against Chinese people. One user in particular ridiculed that perhaps every person from now on should carefully examine themselves before leaving the house to make sure they aren't being a total drag on China's image, as well as sarcastically arguing that Beijing should take a leaf out of North Korea's rulebook and designate only certain locations for photoshoots.
As a side note, it should also be mentioned that the previous campaigns shot in Tokyo and Hong Kong utilised the same concept, yet were positively received. Photos from the Brazilian campaign have also been released in the days since the Chinese photos were removed, and also been devoid of controversy.
So perhaps the takeaway here is that different cultures… are different. Rather than simply being another fashion campaign, D&G's marketing approach has instead revealed the complexities in how Chinese people perceive themselves, as well as their belief of how Western societies view them.
If companies attempt to run an extremely localised campaign, then they need to be completely certain of the target audience. Regardless of your personal opinions on the campaign, a whole load of Chinese locals are
pretty pissed off (take a squizz at D&G’s Instagram account
if you hate yourself and have some time to waste).
That being all said and done, what do you guys think? Is D&G’s campaign a completely misguided attempt at appealing to their (massive) Chinese market? Or are Beijingers being a biiiiit too defensive? And in the grand scheme of things, does any of this really matter? People complained, the images were pulled off Chinese social media, and Dolce & Gabbana’s Beijing fashion show at the Peninsula went off without a hitch.