Dolce & Gabbana’s focus on China generates PR disaster in Hong Kong

One of the biggest stories of this past weekend in Hong Kong was a massive, Facebook-organized protest of the Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana after a security guard prevented locals from taking photographs outside of its flagship in Tsim Sha Tsui last week. Checking into the story, a photographer from the Apple Daily reported on January 5 that he was told by a security guard that only mainland Chinese or foreign tourists were allowed to take photos outside the store, with another guard allegedly threatening to break his camera. Within hours, the story had set off a firestorm of criticism in the city, with angry Hong Kong locals taking to Facebook to speak out about what they saw as tantamount to discrimination, leaving hundreds of messages on Dolce & Gabbana’s wall demanding the brand apologize or pack up and leave Hong Kong altogether.

Over the weekend, more Facebook users in Hong Kong joined together to organize a protest of Dolce & Gabbana’s Tsim Sha Tsui flagship, creating a “10,000 People Photograph D&G Event” page now “liked” by nearly 20,000 fans, with around 1,000 protestors actually taking to the streets yesterday. According to Hong Kong’s Standard, the protest turnout was so great that the store was forced to shut its doors before 3:00 PM as the crowds gathered, with other shops nearby closing early as well as crowds spilled over. Protesters carried cameras and snapped photographs of the store as others held placards denouncing the photo ban and demanding an apology. Despite the massive turnout, as of last night Dolce & Gabbana had only issued a terse, unsigned statement rather than an apology, reading, “We wish to underline that our company has not taken part in any action aiming at offending the Hong Kong public.”

This is unlikely to assuage the protesters’ anger in any way. As the Standard notes today, rumors have abounded for months that luxury brands like D&G have become so reliant on well-heeled mainland Chinese tourists that Hong Kong locals have essentially become “second-class shoppers”:

The brand’s overt focus on the mainland China market in recent months — it plans to open around 30 stores in the country within the next two to three years — and perceived kowtowing to wealthy mainland Chinese tourists at its Hong Kong locations has become a simmering issue in the former British colony, and this most recent incident has only made the situation worse.

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