Coach and Givenchy incur netizens’ wrath over China T-shirt row

Shortly after Versace copped flak for listing Hong Kong and Macau as independent territories on a t-shirt, Coach and Givenchy have also apologised for identifying Hong Kong and Taiwan as independent countries.

According to images circulating on Weibo, a t-shirt in the Coach 1941 collection which featured a list of city-country pairs such as Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Shanghai, China; and Los Angeles, United States, identified Hong Kong and Taipei as “Hong Kong” and “Taipei, Taiwan”. Meanwhile for Givenchy’s t-shirt, which also featured a list of city-country pairs, the company listed the territories as “Hong Kong, Hong Kong”, “Taipei, Taiwan” and “Macau, Macao”.

In a statement on Twitter, Coach said it “respects and supports China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”. The brand clarified that last May, it found “a serious inaccuracy” in the design of a few t-shirts and instantly removed those products from all channels globally. It also reviewed its entire assortment to ensure compliance, and has strengthened its internal product development process to avoid the occurrence of a similar issue in the future. The company add that it is “fully aware of the severity of this error and deeply [regrets] it”.

“We have also taken immediate action to review and correct relevant website content. Coach is dedicated to long-term development in China, and we respect the feelings of the Chinese people. We will continue to strive to produce exceptional products and service to Chinese customers,” the company added.

On the same day, Liu Wen, Chinese model and Coach’s brand ambassador, announced on Weibo that she has cut ties with the brand as China’s sovereignty and territory must not be violated. “I love my motherland and will resolutely safeguard China’s sovereignty,” she added in the post.

In the meantime, Givenchy apologised on Instagram saying that it “firmly respects China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity”. According to the brand, immediate actions have been taken to recall the inaccurate t-shirt design from all markets, and measures of product and process review have been and will continue to be taken to avoid similar situations in the future.

“The House of Givenchy wishes to sincerely apologise for this mistake that does not reflect the deep respect it has for its Chinese audiences throughout the world, as well as renew its commitment to pursue its longstanding relationship with the market in the most thoughtful way,” it said.

Despite the apology, Jackson Yee, a singer from Chinese boyband TFBoys said he will no longer be working with Givenchy, according to Reuters. Both Liu and Yee follow in the footsteps of Chinese actress Yang Mi who recently boycotted Versace.

Asics and Calvin Klein were also not spared from the furore. According to multiple media reports, both brands also apologised on Weibo for allegedly identifying Hong Kong and Taiwan as independent countries on their website.

These few brands were not the only ones that have incurred the wrath of Chinese netizens. Earlier this year, Dolce & Gabbana (D&G) rolled out a new collection called “The Chinese New Year Print”, which features an imagery of the pig to coincide with the Year of the Pig. The new line came not long after D&G caused a furore via a series of ads featuring an East Asian model struggling to eat Italian food with chopsticks. This was followed by co-founder Steffano Gabbana also being embroiled in the controversy after allegedly making racist comments against Chinese consumers.

In 2017, D&G removed its online advertisement campaign “DG loves China” that was shot in Beijing and sparked accusations of only showing “stereotyped” China. In the collection of photos, several models wearing high-end fashion gowns pose in Beijing’s centuries-old hutongs and at famous tourist attractions such as Tiananmen Square, next to tourists as well as taxi and pedicab drivers.