Italian luxury fashion house Dolce & Gabbana has called off a show after a backlash over racially insulting posts on its social media.
The company on Wednesday apologised for insulting remarks about China it allegedly made in exchanges on Instagram but claimed its accounts had been hacked.
Chinese celebrities reacted angrily after screenshots of the conversations were posted on social media and several said they would boycott a D&G show scheduled for Wednesday night.
The company later said the show, an extravaganza meant as a tribute to China with Asian stars invited to take front-row seats, had been called off.
The screenshots, posted by Instagram fashion news account Diet Prada, appear to show co-founder Stefano Gabbana referring to China with crude terms and emoji as he defends promotional videos that had sparked controversy earlier.
Dolce & Gabbana apologised on Instagram and said the accounts had been hacked. "We are very sorry for any distress caused by these unauthorised posts," it said. "We have nothing but respect for China and the people of China."
Zhang Ziyi, who starred in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, said on one of her social media accounts that the Italian brand had "disgraced itself".
The studio for pop idol Karry Wang, an Asia-Pacific brand ambassador for D&G, said late on Wednesday that it had informed the fashion house that it would terminate all co-operation with the brand. Both Wang and Zhang had been invited to attend the event.
Stefano Gabbana also wrote on his Instagram that his account had been hacked, adding "I love China and Chinese culture. I'm sorry for what happened."
The three promotional videos, which have been deleted from the company's Weibo account, feature a Chinese woman using chopsticks to eat pizza and other Italian food. Many Chinese social media users called the videos racist and full of outdated stereotypes.
In a statement from Milan headquarters, designers Gabbana and Domenico Dolce said, "What happened today was very unfortunate not only for us, but also for all the people who worked day and night to bring this event to life."
The Shanghai extravaganza was to include 300 models previewing a new collection on a rotating stage, including super model Eva Herzigova and Isabella Fontana during a brand DNA section, and a line-up of millennial stars and influencers for a second section dedicated to the future.
The final part of the show was to be dedicated to Asia, with Asian models and a front row of Asian stars among the 1000 invited guests, including actor Darren Wang, actor Jing Kang Liang, singer Stan Young and actress Bing Bing Lee, along with Wang and Zhang.
Asia, and China in particular, is key to European luxury brands' success. A recent study by Bain consultancy said one-third of all high-end purchases are made by Chinese consumers, shopping both at home and abroad. That is expected to rise to 46 per cent by 2025, fuelled especially by millennials and generation Z teens.
D&G has 44 boutiques in China, including four in Shanghai, having entered the Chinese market in Hangzhou in 2005.
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