UPDATE (August 12, 2019): Versace apologized on August 11 over a furore that emerged on China’s Sina Weibo social media network — just a day later, Coach and Givenchy are following suit. The new controversy is almost identical to the previous one, in which a faux tour shirt ignited a firestorm due to what users cited as misattributed territorial ownership under the “One-China” policy.
Weibo users called out a particular Versace tee as the cause of consternation, which sported a graphic on the rear that designated Macau and Hong Kong as independent countries, neglecting to acknowledge the cities as part of China. Images of Coach and Givenchy T-shirts with similar notations began to circulate on Weibo shortly after the Versace photo made the rounds. Each brand’s T-shirt referred to Hong Kong as an independent country, and Coach’s tee made the same implication for Taiwan.
CNN reports that a hashtag related to the Coach T-shirt had been read over a billion times on Weibo, with users calling for a boycott of both companies. Furthermore, Givenchy ambassador Jackson Yee, member of popular Chinese boy band TFBoys joined supermodel and Coach ambassador Liu Wen in severing ties with the respective fashion brands they worked with.
“At any time, China’s sovereignty and territory integrity are inviolable!” wrote Wen on her Weibo page. “My carelessness in choosing which brand to work with has brought harm to everyone; I apologize to everyone here! I love my motherland and resolutely safeguard China’s sovereignty.” A letter from her lawyer accompanied her post, affirming that the tees had “severely hurt the feelings of Chinese people.” The brands both maintain several ambassadors in China who currently remain with the labels through the controversy (including Fan Chengcheng, pictured above).
Both Coach and Givenchy have posted apologies on their own social media pages, attempting to placate the backlash. Givenchy’s post insinuated an immediate recall of the offending tee, adding that “this mistake … does not reflect the deep respect [Givenchy] has for its Chinese audiences throughout the world.” Meanwhile, Coach acknowledged that its shirt was from an older collection and was no longer being produced, adding that “Coach respects and supports China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. … We are fully aware of the severity of this error and deeply regret it.”
ORIGINAL STORY: Versace becomes the latest fashion house to find itself in the midst of a clothing controversy.
As seen in the tweet below, Versace came under fire after one of its T-shirts appeared online, a tee that implied Hong Kong and Macau were their own countries and not the “Special Administrative Regions” that they are — both are territories of China, but both maintain governing and economic systems that are separate from those of mainland China. After newly-signed Chinese brand ambassador singer/actress Yang Mi informed the house that she would end her contract with the company, Donatella Versace came out with a formal apology to China and its citizens. She wrote on Instagram:
“I am deeply sorry for the unfortunate recent error that was made by our company and that is being currently discussed on various social media channels. Never have I wanted to disrespect China’s National Sovereignty and this is why I wanted to personally apologize for such inaccuracy and for any distress that it might have caused.”
This couldn’t have come at a worst time, as just hours after the T-shirt found its way to Weibo, Hong Kong police began tossing tear gas into crowds of pro-democracy protesters during the 10th straight weekend of demonstrations.
Italian luxury brand @Versace apologizes on Sunday for mislabeling China’s #HongKong Special Administrative Region and #Macau Special Administrative Region as countries on one of its T-shirt designs pic.twitter.com/V8Uyk2GXEu
— People’s Daily, China (@PDChina) August 11, 2019