Movie star Yang Mi has walked away from a lucrative contract with Versace after the Italian fashion house inadvertently sashayed into the Hong Kong row with China.
The 32-year-old critically-acclaimed actress ended her relationship with the Milan blue-chip designer after a T-shirt collection identified Beijing-controlled Hong Kong and Macau as countries instead of Special Administrative Regions.
“As a Chinese citizen, Ms Yang Mi is very indignant that Versace’s mistake blatantly defies the sovereignty and territorial integrality of China,” the statement said on Weibo.
With more than 104 million followers on the Chinese Twitter-style social media site, Yang has tremendous pulling power.
So much so, that her decision to sever ties with Versace after just two months attracted 640 million views and was the No 1 topic trending.
In response, the luxury label and its artistic director Donatella Versace apologized for “making the mistake.”
The T-shirt that triggered the row featured a list of “city-country” pairings, including “New York-USA” and “Beijing-China.” But it described Hong Kong and Macau as “Hong Kong-Hong Kong” and “Macau-Macau.”
“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,” Donatella Versace, the sister of the group’s late founder Gianni, said in a statement on Instagram.
Still, the fashion label joins a growing list of major companies that have come under fire in China.
Earlier this year, Leica Camera had to distance itself from a promotional video which highlighted the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy crackdown.
In 2018, Dolce & Gabbana faced an angry backlash after a video showed a Chinese model struggling to use chopsticks to eat a pizza.
Other major brands, such as Gap and Marriott Hotels, have also been criticized for failing to portray the official status of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.
Even so, the Versace controversy comes at a highly-sensitive time after another round of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last weekend.
Along with a three-day sit-in at the city’s international airport, the demonstrations entered a 10th straight week as calls increased for greater freedom in the Special Administrative Region.
“Versace reiterates that we love China deeply, and resolutely respect China’s territory and national sovereignty,” the company said in a statement.