Customers ignore and walk past a Dolce & Gabbana shop in Shenyang, in Liaoning province, on November 22, 2018. Photo: AFP
Customers ignore and walk past a Dolce & Gabbana shop in Shenyang, in Liaoning province, on November 22, 2018. Photo: AFP

Italian luxury fashion brand Dolce and Gabbana, which canceled a show in Shanghai after an outcry over what was seen by many as racist advertising, on Wednesday described the incident as “unfortunate.”

The company posted a statement on its Instagram account, saying: “Our dream was to bring to Shanghai a tribute event dedicated to China which tells our history and vision. It was not simply a fashion show, but something that we created especially with love and passion for China and all the people around the world who loves Dolce & Gabbana.

“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 apology did not stop Chinese anger against the international brand. About 10 Chinese people holding “Not Me” banners protested in front of D&G’s headquarter in Milan, according to a photo uploaded on Weibo, known as China’s Twitter.

Read: Shanghai catwalk event canceled after racism row

Dolce and Gabbana may have learned a hard lesson after its latest advertising campaign in China that backfired badly.

A series of three videos entitled “eating with chopsticks,” the Italian fashion house released over last weekend on Twitter and Instagram, showed a Chinese woman using chopsticks to eat pizza. The voiceover instructed the woman to use her “small” Chinese chopsticks to eat the “large” Italian pizza.

The videos immediately hit a raw nerve and Chinese people went online, accusing the company of being disrespectful to their culture.

To make things worse, a WhatApps message allegedly from founder Stefano Gabbana appeared to call China “the country of shit,” brand it “Ignorant Dirty Smelling Mafia” and claimed Chinese people ate dogs.

The company claimed the accounts of Gabbana were hacked and immediately put up an apology, saying: “We have nothing but respect for China and the people of China.”

But the apology did little to save the scheduled catwalk show in Shanghai, which more than 40 mainland artists threatened to boycott. Dilraba Dilmurat, a Chinese actress of Uighur ethnicity, announced she was terminating her commercial contract with D&G.

This was not the first time D&G became involved in controversies in China and Hong Kong. In April 2017, the brand was criticized for mocking a citizen’s normal clothes.

In 2012, the company faced a public relations disaster after it dispersed Hong Kong fans from taking pictures in front of its shops, saying it wanted to protect its intellectual property rights. After protests by hundreds of Hong Kong people, the company apologized.

D&G has outlets in 25 cities in China, according to its official websites. Along with other leading brands, they are competing for a slice of the 500 billion yuan luxury consumer market, according to a McKinsey report.