DOLCE'S A GONE-NA
Dolce’s a gone-na…but not if Dolce & Gabbana just pretend that nothing’s wrong. Considering their many unforgivable controversies, the true scandal is how they can continue business as usual. Since 2012, the brand has gained a reputation for being unapologetically problematic. This backlash is warranted considering their various contentious incidents, which include wildly offensive marketing, inappropriate product designs, and an enduring history of racism, sexism, and homophobia. This is ironic, considering Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabanna were once a couple. To name a few scandals, they have designed “slave sandals,” attended a party in blackface, and most recently, released offensive advertising campaigns in China to promote their upcoming show. In one ad, the narrator intentionally mispronounces Italian words in an attempt to mock Chinese speech. Another makes light of models struggling to eat pizzas and cannolis with chopsticks, even though chopsticks were never intended to be used for either meal.
Understandably, this led to the cancellation of their Shanghai show. This cancellation and the release of an insincere apology was the catalyst for a heated Instagram DM exchange in which Gabanna expressed more racist sentiments and little remorse for the scandal. Consequently and deservingly so, the loss of the Chinese market caused the value of the two owners to shrink by 30%, causing both to be dropped from the list of billionaires. Despite all their efforts, they have yet to gain back the support of the Chinese market.
Regardless of their multiple offenses, they remain uncancelled, especially in Western societies, credited mainly to their (ab)use of celebrity ethos. Celebrity ethos is a common marketing strategy used by all types of companies through celebrity endorsements, paid partnerships, and collaborations. This strategy also effectively appeals to their fans, potentially creating a new demographic in their market. Think of Nike and Micheal Jordan, Tiffany and Co. x Beyonce, or Gucci and Harry Styles. The reason we’ve also seen a surge in celebrity-owned brands like Skims, Fenty, and Rare Beauty, is that celebrities have learned to utilize their ethos rather than sell it to brands for less. Either way, the goal is to influence public opinion by linking a celebrity’s perceived character to a company.
In the case of Dolce & Gabbana, celebrities have either forgiven them or believe that money makes for a great apology. Assuming the latter, D&G desperately wants to create a “club” of highly elite individuals with which the public can associate themselves. This features Kim Kardashian, a celebrity name that the brand ironically once labeled as the cheapest in Hollywood. Their words proved to be rather expensive after sponsoring Kourtney Kardashian’s wedding, a week-long, 15 million dollar ad during which all members of the family were pictured exclusively wearing D&G. Their fashion shows have also featured a suspicious collection of individuals. In attendance was Drew Barrymore, though not often found in the fashion scene; her good nature, widespread likability, kindness, and subtle reputation for inclusivity are of value. Ciara, Russel Wilson, and their children have attended most of their recent shows as an obvious use of family advertising that appeals to anyone with a soul. Unsurprisingly, they also invited and made sure to photograph an uncharacteristic amount of celebrities of color like Megan Thee Stallion, Normani, Saweetie, Doja Cat, Jennifer Hudson, Mariah Carey, Lupita Nyong'o, Jennifer Lopez, Annitta, and many more. This is a blatantly performative selection and tokenization of guests proving a further lack of accountability.
Unfortunately, they have yet to reflect on or sincerely apologize for most of their scandals. Instead, they’ve even attempted to bank off of their criticism with their #BoycottD&G campaign, which rather attempted to mock all calls for change. Despite public opinion, celebrities, as it stands, will continue to support them. Either way, we, as consumers, can still choose to support brands that value and promote inclusivity and accountability. By trying to see beyond celebrity ethos, a brand’s true morals, and practices become clearer. Whatever you feel does not align personally is not something you would want to put your money behind anyways. Though everyone deserves a few extra chances at redemption, it's wise to reassess after positions are made as abundantly clear as that of Dolce and Gabbana.