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Politics & Law

Assuming Versace, Coach and Givenchy are simply careless, it still matters to China


The Versace Tee showing Hong Kong and Macau as names of ‘a country’ equivalent to Italy and UK (photo from InStyle); and a 18th century Chinese European sub-enamel lidded bowl (photo from Joanies House of Treasures)

“…This weekend, all three companies (Givenchy, Coach, and Versace) apologized to Chinese customers after backlash over inaccurate T-shirt designs…

“Between Sunday night and early Monday morning, both Givenchy and Coach issued apologies after social media users called for a boycott of the brands due to separate T-shirts from both fashion houses that suggested Hong Kong and Taipei were separate from China — a day after Versace was forced to do the same …” reported by InStyle on Aug 12 Monday.

The common error these fashion designers made was that they had mistaken, for example, Hong Kong as a ‘country’(similar to Singapore as a city-state), not knowing that it is part of China.

Let us assume that these designers are not good at geography and history, nor the production and marketing staff. Yet, it matters to China at least in two ways.

Firstly, many affluent Chinese consumers are not just in need of the opportunities to show off their purchasing power, but also eager to demonstrate their pride of being a member of a rising power. However small the error may be, it could be deemed as an insult.

In the 18th century, many upper-class Europeans were keen on buying silk, tea and chinaware from the East (which to certain extent can be comparable to the present crazy purchases of luxury European brands by the Chinese). Imagine, say, how the post-Napoleonic Frenchmen might have reacted if the picture painted on a ceramic bowl had depicted that two men were drinking tea in ‘Waterloo: a territory of the UK’. They would have found it unpleasant, I guess (Waterloo was then a territory of the Netherlands, and is now part of Belgium).

Secondly, the younger generations in Hong Kong are going through an arduous stage of identity politics, and their mainland peers are quite frustrated with some HongKongers’ ideological positions and political actions. Therefore, it is abnormally sensitive right now.

We all need to do homework diligently, or otherwise, like the Myanmar case I mentioned last week, we would somehow and somewhere lose something.

The opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of China Daily Mail.

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About keith K C Hui

Keith K C Hui is a Chinese University of Hong Kong graduate major in Government and Public Administration and the author of "Helmsman Ruler: China's Pragmatic Version of Plato's Ideal Political Succession System In The Republic" (2013).

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