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11 Aug, 2019 17:14

‘Deeply sorry’: Versace in hot water as China accuses fashion brand of questioning its sovereignty

‘Deeply sorry’: Versace in hot water as China accuses fashion brand of questioning its sovereignty

The Italian luxury fashion company Versace has found itself at the center of a scandal after its T-shirt design sparked uproar in China. A print on the clothing item referred to China’s Hong Kong and Macau as separate states.

The fashion brand issued a formal apology on China’s Twitter-like network of Weibo, explaining that a “faulty design” had led to a situation in which “some cities did not use the correct country name.” The statement came after people on the popular Chinese social media platform vented their anger over Versace allegedly harming the nation’s sovereignty.

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The piece of cloth that sparked such a scandal appears to be a white T-shirt with a list of ‘city-country’ pairs printed on it. An image of the controversial T-shirt shows that Hong Kong and Macau are designated as countries.

The blunder even cost Versace its ‘brand ambassador’ in China – actress Yang Mi, who announced the termination of her contract with the Italian company through an official account of her studio a day before the apology was issued. “The motherland’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are sacred and inviolable,” the statement read.

The fallout from the design mistake has seemingly been so big that Versace’s chief creative officer and the sister of the fashion brand founder, Donatella Versace, decided to take the matter into her own hands.

She apologized “for the unfortunate… error” and noted that she has “never wanted to disrespect China’s national sovereignty” in an Instagram post, which was also published by the company on Weibo.

Versace itself has meanwhile said that all the controversial T-shirts were not just removed from sale but physically destroyed as early as July 24. The scandal comes at a sensitive moment as Hong Kong – a former British colony that became part of China in 1997 – witnesses massive protests that has been held for weeks.

Crowds of demonstrators in the region that still enjoys a certain level of autonomy from Beijing initially took to the streets over a since-suspended bill, which would have allowed the extradition of suspects to mainland China. Over the weeks, the protests grew into wider anti-government demonstrations marred by violence and clashes between protesters and police.

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Yet, Versace is not the first company that suffered a blowback in China following some controversial decisions. Dolce & Gabbana – another Italian fashion brand – had to beg for forgiveness as well following a ‘racist’ ad featuring an Asian model trying and failing to eat Italian food with chopsticks.

At that time, the backlash even triggered a boycott of the company on Chinese social media and saw its products being dumped by the Chinese retailers. No wonder that Dolce & Gabbana founders went even further than Versace in their apology and recorded a video they closed by saying “sorry” in Chinese.

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