Freckled Zara ads spark another China racism row

Following Dolce & Gabbana's troubles coping with Chinese accusations of racism since November last year, Zara is now dealing with its own set of angered netizens, stemming from the publication of a post on Weibo that featured a freckled Chinese model.

On 15 February, the Spanish fast-fashion retailer published a post promoting a new lipstick and lip glaze series. The post, still available on Zara's Weibo account, featured Li Jingwen, a model with a freckled face. The post attracted criticism from some Chinese netizens who labeled it as racist as they claimed it defamed the beauty of Chinese women.

However, only a handful of netizens agreed that the post was at all racist towards Chinese people. The majority of Weibo users voiced that they believed the photos were realistic. Even news platforms have voiced their opinion on the subject with a piece from The Paper saying, "It's common for international fashion brands to use freckled models, and some freckles are even welcomed by the public from foreign countries."

Contrary to the limited outrage, many netizens said the photos felt authentic and believed the public should be open to different aesthetics and be tolerant to imperfect faces rather than only accepting edited or air photos. The general atmosphere online could be summarised as, "It's not Zara's intention to attack Chinese people, but some of our fellow Chinese netizens do."

Zara said the new makeup line was not targeted solely at the Chinese market. It has also been made known that the appointment of Li Jingwen was determined by the headquarters in Spain and the photos were shot in a natural state without any final touch-ups.