Versace Shirt Controversy Hurts Chinese, Loses China Brand Ambassador

  • One of the world’s gigantic fashion brand Versace has been forced to apologise over a controversial T-shirt incorrectly identifying the Chinese-controlled territories of Hong Kong and Macau as countries.
  • The T-shirt controversy comes at a sensitive time with ongoing protests in Hong Kong considered by Chinese officials as a violent attempt to seek independence and undermine the “one country, two systems” arrangement.
  • “Yang Mi announced his contract with Versace Versace’s T-shirt lists Hong Kong and Macao as countries, and China’s territory and sovereignty are inviolable! As an international brand, Versace only apologized on Weibo, which is perfunctory and despise China!”

The Italian luxury label and its artistic director Donatella Versace apologized after one of the company’s T-shirts was widely criticized on social media for labeling the Chinese-controlled territories of Hong Kong and Macau as countries.

The brand Versace, which was bought by Michael Kors’ Capri Holdings Ltd in September, said on its Twitter-like Weibo account that it had made a mistake and as of July 24 had stopped selling and destroyed the T-shirts.

“Versace reiterates that we love China deeply, and resolutely respect China’s territory and national sovereignty,” the company said in a statement.

The T-shirt, images of which were widely posted on Chinese social media, featured a list of “city-country” pairs, including “New York-USA” and “Beijing-China”. But it also described Hong Kong and Macau as “Hong Kong-Hong Kong and Macau-Macau.”

Donatella Versace

Milan-based Versace is the latest company to become entangled in political issues involving China, which since last year has increased its policing of how foreign firms describe Hong Kong and Macau, former European colonies that are now part of China but run with a high degree of autonomy.

The studio of Versace’s China brand ambassador Yang Mi, one of the country’s most well-known actresses, also said on its Weibo account that she was ending her contract with Versace over the issue.

“China’s territorial integrity and sovereignty are sacred and inviolable at all times,” Jiaxing Media said in the statement.

The Controversy Amplified

The ending of Yang’s relationship with Versace was one of the most viewed topics on Weibo on Sunday, attracting over 640 million views.

“Versace suspected of supporting Hong Kong and Macau secession” became a trending hashtag, and the claims were amplified and promoted by state media.

The T-shirt controversy comes at a sensitive time with ongoing protests in Hong Kong considered by Chinese officials as a violent attempt to seek independence and undermine the “one country, two systems” arrangement.

Many residents took to Twitter and Facebook to share their views.

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