Since President Donald Trump took office, brands have struggled with how to deal with customer blowback over their apparent support of or opposition to the administration.
In responding to critics of its association with First Lady Melania Trump, Dolce & Gabbana has dared to be different.
The Italian fashion house is one of the latest targets of anti-Trump consumers who have called for a boycott of the brand since Melania Trump has repeatedly worn its clothes. Since assuming her new role, the first lady has donned D&G garments for high profile events. She wore a $51,500 D&G coat to the G-7 Summit in Italy and is seen in a $2,900 blazer in her official White House portrait. Unlike other designers like Tom Ford and Sophie Theallet, who have refused to dress the first family, D&G has embraced the exposure. Designer Stefano Gabbana, for instance, has on several occasions, posted photos of Melania Trump wearing D&G garments to his personal Instagram account with the hashtag #DGWoman.
Backlash—as expected—has ensued, with some commenters criticizing the brand and its designers for their apparent support of the administration, whose nationalist policies towards immigrants and climate change have sparked outcry and protests. (Other commenters, meanwhile, have commended D&G for dressing the first lady.)
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D&G has responded to its critics with a blend of humor and entrepreneurialism. Last week it announced the sale of a t-shirt that mocks the boycott. It bears the words #BOYCOTT DOLCE & GABBANA and sells for $245. The fashion house also released videos of fake protests—a la Kendall Jenner's controversial Pepsi ad—that urge the boycott of D&G.
Designer Gabanna has promoted the t-shirt and the larger campaign on his personal Instagram account with the hashtags #fakenews #realtshirt. His bio on the social media platform now features the #boycottdolce&gabbana hashtag with a laughing-crying face.
The brand's defiance in the face of criticism contrasts to other companies that have sought to toe the line between Trump supporters and his opponents so as to not alienate any customers. Perhaps most famously, Nordstrom (jwn) continued to sell Ivanka Trump products shortly after the election and characterized itself as "agnostic" in the battle between the first daughter's devotees and critics. The department store eventually pulled her line, citing poor sales, not ideology—a move that prompted an angry tweet from the president.
Likewise PepsiCo faced a boycott campaign from Trump supporters that was inspired by false reports of incendiary anti-Trump comments that Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi never actually made. Pepsi (pep) did concede that Nooyi misspoke at one point when referring to the election outcome but, unlike D&G, it never took a side in the debate.