Dolce & Gabbana has apologised after being accused of making racist remarks about China on social media – but claims its accounts were hacked.
Chinese celebrities threatened to boycott a fashion show scheduled for Wednesday night after screenshots circulated on social media appeared to show co-founder Stefano Gabbana referring to China with crude terms and emojis.
The luxury fashion house later said the Shanghai bonanza – The Great Show, which was meant to be a tribute to China – had been called off, reportedly by the Cultural Affairs Bureau of Shanghai.
D&G's reputation in the country had already been dented as it released three promo videos ahead of the event showing an Asian model struggling to eat Italian food with chopsticks.
The narrator offered seemingly patronising advice on how to eat pizza, cannoli and spaghetti, and appeared to mispronounce the brand's name, with some interpreting it as mocking the way Chinese people say Dolce & Gabbana.
Fashion fans on social media were not impressed with the videos, with the topic trending on China's version of Twitter, Weibo, hours before the show was due to start.
Mr Gabbana then appeared to plunge his company into even hotter water as he replied to the controversy in what looked like a private message with London-based fashion blogger Michaela Tranova.
Screenshots of the message showed Mr Gabbano using five poo emojis to say in any future interviews he "will say that the country of poo is China".
He then accused the Chinese of being "ignorant dirty smelling mafia" before saying he was not afraid of Ms Tranova posting the exchange on social media.
The fashion designer then apologised as he posted the screenshot with a big red "Not Me" over it, saying his Instagram account had been hacked and that "I love China and the Chinese culture".
Many of China's top celebrities and D&G fans said they did not believe him and would be boycotting his show.
Singer Kerry Wang, a Dolce brand ambassador, said she would not be attending and modelling agency China Bentley confirmed 24 of its models had pulled out of the show before it was postponed.
In a statement, Dolce & Gabbana said: "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."
Again, people were not satisfied with the explanation, with Chinese-French model Estelle Chen – who was meant to be in the show – saying the incident was "disrespectful and racist".
"You don't love China, you love money," she wrote.
"China is rich yes but China is rich in its values, its culture and its people and they won't spend a penny on a brand that does not respect that."
Other models and event staff posted images of their event badges with "not me" written in red letters.
The incident comes five years after security guards at a Dolce & Gabbana store in Hong Kong tried to stop locals, but not overseas or mainland China customers, from taking photos.
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It prompted more than 1,000 protesters to descend on the shop, with the brand later issuing an apology.