Versace apologises for a T-shirt that triggered criticism from China

Brenda Watkins
August 12, 2019

In response, the luxury label and its artistic director Donatella Versace apologized for "making the mistake".

Versace, which was bought by Michael Kors' Capri Holdings Ltd in September, said on its Twitter-like Weibo account that it had made a mistake and as of July 24 had stopped selling and destroyed the T-shirts. An announcement posted through Yang's studio Jiaxing Xingguang, said that: "China's territorial integrity and sovereignty are sacred and inviolable at all times", adding: "As a company of the People's Republic of China and Yang Mi as a citizen of the People's Republic of China, we are deeply offended". "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", she said.

Hong Kong and Macau both have semi-autonomous governments and are classified as special administrative regions of China, not as separate countries.

The brands are the latest to get into hot water over political issues in China, which has been more assertive in its territorial claims and how it expects foreign companies doing businesses in China to describe them.

The T-shirt, images of which were widely posted on Chinese social media, featured a list of "city-country" pairs, including "New York-USA", "Beijing-China" and "Shanghai-China". We are fully aware of the severity of this error and deeply regret it.

"Versace suspected of supporting Hong Kong and Macau secession" became a trending hashtag on Weibo, attracting more than 400 million views by Sunday afternoon, and the claims were amplified and promoted by state media.

By the time the apologies were issued, both brands had been facing significant backlash from social media users and celebrity brand ambassadors. "I love my motherland and resolutely safeguard China's sovereignty".

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Coach and Versace's T-shirts are the latest in a string of missteps by foreign companies in China.

Issues around Chinese sovereignty have been especially sensitive in recent months, following weeks protests in Hong Kong.

Italy's Dolce & Gabbana also apologized in November after its products were pulled from lucrative Chinese e-commerce platforms over an Instagram post seen in China as culturally offensive.

In May 2018, United States clothing retailer Gap apologised over a T-shirt showing a map of mainland China that omitted Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing considers a rebel province awaiting reunification.

Both Hong Kong and Macau were once European colonies which were leased from China.

Beijing also ordered dozens of worldwide air carriers to change their websites to ensure Taiwan was listed as part of China - a decision that the White House described as "Orwellian nonsense".

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