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Dolce & Gabbana Cancels Shanghai Fashion Show After Backlash Over ‘Racist’ Ads

Dolce & Gabbana - Runway - Milan Fashion WeekDolce & Gabbana - Runway - Milan Fashion Week
A model walks the runway at the Dolce & Gabbana show during Milan Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2019 on September 23, 2018 in Milan, Italy. A major fashion show in China was canceled in November 2018 following accusations that an ad campaign was racist. Jacopo Raule—Getty Images

Dolce & Gabbana announced the cancellation of a huge fashion show in Shanghai after being accused of racism in connection to a social media ad campaign, CNN reported.

The event was slated to be the brand’s biggest fashion show in its 33 years, and included 140 performers, a one-hour ode to China, and a 1,400-person audience of celebrities and influencers, according to Vogue.

But the event fell apart after the brand published a series of 40-second videos on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and the Chinese social media site Weibo. The video posted on Monday showed a Chinese model trying to eat pizza, spaghetti, and a cannoli while using chopsticks, which led Weibo users to accuse the brand of using racist stereotypes to depict Chinese women.

Though the video was removed within 24 hours, it caused a controversy online, prompting the hashtag #BoycottDolce to circulate on social media, with a number of celebrity attendees backing out of the show. The fashion show was scheduled for Wednesday evening.

The social media backlash intensified after screenshots of private messages allegedly sent by D&G co-founder, Stefano Gabbana to fashion writer Michaela Phuong were shared on the Instagram account Diet Prada, according to the Guardian. The screenshots show Gabbana defending the campaign and making racist comments.

In a statement posted to Dolce & Gabanna’s Instagram account, the company apologized for any “distress” caused by the posts and claimed that both the company account and Stefano Gabbano’s account had been hacked.

“Our Instagram account has been hacked. So has the account of Stefano Gabbana. Our legal office is urgently investigating,” the statement read, adding “any distress caused by these unauthorized posts, comments and direct messages.”

One Chinese model who had prepared for two months to walk the runway at the event on Wednesday called the controversy “a pity for both sides,” according to Vogue. “Mistakes have been made by Dolce & Gabbana, and when the problem blew up on social media, they didn’t act fast enough to explain themselves. But I think this is a shame for them, and I guess it will be news across the world tomorrow,” he said.