Patriotic fury over fashion and flags

Tasteless: A screenshot from Dolce & Gabbana

MESSAGES that began with “I will not attend the Dolce & Gabbana show in Shanghai on Nov 21, I ra­­ther ...” flooded Sina Weibo earlier last week as users expressed their anger towards the Italian fashion brand.

This was started by some celebrities who boycotted a runway show organised by D&G after co-founder and designer Stefano Gabbana had come under fire over racist remarks attributed to him.

Those words surfaced amid controversy over video clips that were meant to promote the event.

Big names like Zhang Ziyi, Li Bingbing and Chen Kun, and even the brand’s spokesmen Dilraba Dil­murat and Wang Junkai, have openly said they would not be at what D&G calls The Great Show.

The anti-D&G sentiment was so strong that the company cancelled the show, which would have been held at the Shanghai Expo Centre.

It was supposed to be the brand’s first fashion show in China. Accor­ding to Global Times, over 500 mo­­dels and celebrities had been expected to attend.

The furore was sparked by three Eating With Chopsticks videos that the brand released on social media a few days before the event.

They have been removed from Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social me­­dia site with some 337 million users nationwide.

Part of the “DG Loves China” cam­­paign, the clips feature a Chi­nese­-­looking woman with exagge­rated facial expressions struggling to eat Italian food – pizza, spaghetti and cannoli – with chopsticks, which are described onscreen as “stick-shaped cutlery”.

Many Chinese feel the videos make fun of traditional Chinese culture and play up stereotypes. Some go as far as labelling the videos as racist.

There is also annoyance with the voice-over, which has a man speaking English with a strong Chinese accent. People are insulted because to them, this implies that the Chi­nese have a poor command of English.

However, others were more re­­lax­­ed having decided that they would be understanding about the “misconception of foreigners on Chinese culture”.

Some of these people may have changed their mind after things got worse.

One person went on Gabbana’s Instagram account and confronted the designer on the videos. Gabbana insisted that there was no problem with the clips.

But when pushed further, he used five emojis of poo to refer to China and posted a message saying “China Ignorant Dirty Smelling Mafia”.

Screenshots of the conversation went viral.

More than half of the Top 10 Hottest Topics on Weibo last Wed­nesday were related to the D&G con­­troversy and posts with D&G-related hashtags were read nearly half a billion times.

Outraged Chinese netizens have called for the brand to get out of the country, saying it wanted to make money in China on one hand while criticising and insulting its people on the other.

D&G issued an official apology later, claiming that Gabbana’s ac­­count had been hacked and that they were sorry for the unautho­rised posts.

It was too late. No one buys the explanation.

“The company is only sorry for losing the big China market,” wrote one online user.

It has been reported that the Chinese spend over 500bil yuan (RM305bil) on luxury items yearly, taking up nearly one-third of the global luxury market.

Just hours before The Great Show was to start, D&G announced on Weibo that it would be postponed but no new date has been given.

Do not underestimate Chinese power and passion when these heirs of the dragon feel that they must do their patriotic duty and defend the nation’s dignity.

Last week, a Chinese marathon runner was accused of being unpa­triotic when she dropped the Five-Star Red Flag handed to her near the finish line.

In the woman’s event of the Suzhou Taihu Marathon on Nov 18, He Yinli was neck to neck with Ayantu Abera Demissie from Ethio­pia as the race shaped up for an exciting climax.

A volunteer went up to He and tried to hand over a Chinese flag but failed because He kept running. The volunteer chased after the runners but soon fell behind.

Moments later, another person ran onto the road to also pass a flag to He. This time, He grabbed the flag but dropped it after several seconds.

Perhaps distracted by the incident, He ended the race just five seconds behind Demissie.

Not only did she lose the gold medal, He was also criticised as unpatriotic for “throwing away” the national flag.

The athlete explained that she was just too tired to hold the flag properly.

“The flag was soaking wet from the rain and it slipped from my grasp,” she said.

Many people have voiced support for her, saying winning races is also a form of patriotism because it brings pride to the country.

“Asking an athlete to hold the national flag during the race is su­­perficial patriotism,” wrote one of them.

In response to criticism that people were not stopped from approaching the runners during the marathon, the organiser argued that passing national flags was simply a way to welcome Chinese athletes.

Marathons are important sports events in China. China Daily reported that the marathon market is growing, with an estimated 1,600 to 1,800 such races this year.

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