Weathering through and at times even relishing in it, Dolce and Gabbana have become known for their ability to outlast every controversy. From the brand’s “Thin & Gorgeous” sneakers to its $245 “#Boycott D&G” T-shirts, the designer duo’s dictionary seems to lack a few words such as ‘conformity’ and ‘fear’.
Managing to insult both the Japanese fashion industry and the people of China in rapid succession, Dolce & Gabbana received tremendous flak for a series of promotional videos posted in lieu of the brand’s next Shanghai runway show in November 2018. The videos which depicted a Chinese model struggling to eat cannoli, pizza and other Italian cuisine with chopsticks – soon resulted in both the show and brand’s tangible and figurative ‘cancellation’. Worsened by an alleged social media hacking which revealed the private conversations of Domenico Dolce further berating the East Asian demographic, the brand was almost boycotted into inexistence by consumers and celebrities, alike.
While most brands would act immediately – letting Domenico Dolce take the fall for the video, or replacing and demoting him for his alleged hate speech, seemed to be out of the question. With his name on the door and a 50% stake in the company, Dolce and Gabbana were faced with a unique predicament.
Dubbed “Dead & Gone”, many predicted that once the controversial memory subsided that the brand would regain its footing in the market. However, despite numeral boycotts, innumerable sales reports revealed that Dolce & Gabbana’s profits never took a hit, with revenues rising by 5%, amassing the brand an estimated $1.54 billion by March 2019.
Revived or seemingly maintained by strategic advertising and through personal relationships with celebrities and editors, Dolce & Gabbana’s controversy was a mere blip of social media hashtags and temporary public uproar. While the brand has apologised for the videos, perhaps their firm stance on other ‘unpopular opinions’ – whether about LGBTQ+ adoption rights, body issues or mental health and self-harm issues through campaigns which brandish knives and suffering, have helped spark an ongoing dialogue and cultivate a culture of ‘agreeing to disagree’, more than we think.
Ultimately, while Dolce & Gabbana was indeed almost Dead & Gone, at least on a socio-political level, their deliberate and well thought out use of celebrity influence has saved them from a further downward spiral – dressing public figures such as First Lady of the United States, Melania Trump during the State of the Union address, plus Greta Gerwig, Blake Lively, Lupita Nyong’o and even the Duchess of Cambridge during numerous red carpet events and public appearances.
Afterall, this isn’t the fashion industry’s first display of disastrous cultural and historic ignorance, in 2015 Italian high fashion women’s clothing and accessories brand, Miu Miu went under fire for its controversial Spring Summer campaign where children were irresponsibly depicted in sexually suggestive poses, while Benetton’s sister brand Sisley’s “fashion junkie” ad was banned in 2007 for glamorizing drug abuse. Even Dolce & Gabbana’s direct competitors such as Gucci and Prada have had their fair share of cultural appropriation and ‘black face’ allegations with the use of turbans, “Golliwog” inspired sweaters and “Sambo” inspired figures – All of which resulting in mass boycotts, public apologies, retracted products and the silent hope that all will be forgiven.