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Political insensitivity forces fashion brands to apologise to China

"In a classic case of political insensitivity backfiring, many reputed brands such as Versace, Coach and Givenchy had to apologise to China for disrespecting the country’s sovereignty recently. These brands had launched a range of T-shirts with designs that suggested that Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are independent territories and not an integral part of China."

Political insensitivity forces fashion brands to apologise to ChinaIn a classic case of political insensitivity backfiring, many reputed brands such as Versace, Coach and Givenchy had to apologise to China for disrespecting the country’s sovereignty recently. These brands had launched a range of T-shirts with designs that suggested that Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are independent territories and not an integral part of China.

Hong Kong is currently in the midst of widespread protests as citizens believe that the move by these brands threatens the city’s autonomy. The one time British colony has its own economic and legal systems, as well as greater civil liberties than the mainland. To assuage protests, China has begun to crack down on these protesters.

Men’s innerwear brand Calvin Klein and sports label Asics have issued statements of remorse on Chinese socialPolitical insensitivity forces fashion brands to apologise media platforms such as Weibo and Instagram, for treating these three as independent regions in their drop down menus.

Upsetting China to hamper brands’ growth

Even though brands have made similar mistakes before, the protests have been particularly fierce this time as the Chinese government is working overtime to shape its country’s image overseas as well as domestically. This is further amplified by Chinese celebrities ending their relationships with brands that threaten to tarnish the country’s image. Yang Mi, a superstar actress in China, recently announced her decision to cut her ties with Versace, while model Liu Wen severed her contract with Coach, as did actress Guan Xiaotong. Jackson Yee, a popular singer, also stopped working with Givenchy’s cosmetics line.

There’s a lot at stake for these fashion brands. As a recent joint report by McKinsey & Company and Business of Fashion, notes, Greater China is soon set to overtake the US as the largest fashion market in the world this year. The market is particularly important for upscale brands like Versace, Givenchy and Coach as the Chinese are one of the biggest shoppers of luxury goods in the world. The country is a key component of many brands’ plans for sales growth.

Brands therefore, can’t afford to lose the support of Chinese celebrities who act as a connecting bridge for them with their audiences. They need to take some action before they lose access to one of the most valuable customer bases in the world. This is why brands like Versace, Givenchy, and Coach have displayed a level of remorse one might not expect from them for something as trivial as ill-considered t-shirt designs.

 
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