'Racist' Dolce & Gabbana ad in China Showed Woman Struggling to Eat Pizza with Chopsticks

Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana is facing accusations of racism after culturally insensitive adverts depicted an Asian model struggling to eat Italian food with chopsticks.

Its "eating with chopsticks" campaign quickly drew criticism after being launched online, The Hollywood Reporter noted. Instagram videos for the #DGLovesChina campaign featured an Asian woman struggling to eat a series of traditional Italian meals while using chopsticks.

Chinese news site Jing Daily said the videos were also posted to Chinese social media platform Weibo on November 18, though the backlash was so fierce they were deleted within 24 hours. Users took issue with the "stereotypical" appearance and the set used for filming, which was branded outdated. The videos are still viewable on Instagram.

The woman—dressed in a red sequined Dolce & Gabbana dress—eventually managed to eat the foods, which included pizza, cannoli and pasta, while a male narrator asked, "Is it too huge for you?" The posts were intended to promote the company's Wednesday runway show in Shanghai, but appear to have backfired.

Indeed, the Shanghai show was abruptly canceled Wednesday with little explanation, Reuters reported. "We are deeply sorry for the inconveniences caused by it," the company said. Though Dolce & Gabbana said it would be rescheduled, it gave no indication as to when it would be held.

The "Boycott Dolce" has been discussed more than 18,000 times on Weibo by angry users, Jing Daily explained, while many have called on the company to issue a dual-language English-Chinese apology.

This is not the first time Dolce & Gabbana has been accused of cultural insensitivity in their Chinese marketing. In April 2017, Jing Daily reported, social media were upset by an earlier iteration of the #DGLovesChina campaign, which depicted models alongside locals in Beijing.

Some were photographed posing next to famous landmarks such as the Great Wall of China. But the company was accused of misrepresenting the country by focusing on impoverished locals and dilapidated areas of Beijing in other shots, and failing to capture the modern and highly developed face of the Chinese capital.

The company eventually deleted the photos from Weibo and its official WeChat—China's multipurpose messaging app—channel. The campaign was left up on international media sites such as Instagram, which are inaccessible in mainland China.

The mammoth Chinese market is a tantalizing proposition for luxury western fashion brands. The country's burgeoning middle class offers a new pool of consumers while rapid economic growth promises to further swell fashion brands' potential customer base.

As Jing Daily suggested, the potential returns at stake mean that no brand can "afford to fail this market in such a dramatic way and even for the second time."

Dolce & Gabbana is no stranger to controversy. In 2015, co-founder Domenico Dolce said he was opposed to gay couples using IVF treatment to have children. "The only family is the traditional one," he said in an interview with Italian magazine Panorama. Dolce described IVF babies as "children of chemistry, synthetic children. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalogue."

In 2016, the brand was accused of cultural insensitivity after releasing its $2,395 "slave sandal" and accused of glorifying slavery, according the The New York Times. Though experts noted the term was formerly popular, the company faced criticism for overlooking its potential to offend.

This article has been updated to note that Wednesday's Shanghai runway show has been canceled.