Luxury brands Coach and Givenchy have both apologized to Chinese consumers for T-shirts deemed to undermine the country’s “One China” policy — just a day after Versace was forced to do the same.
Social media users called for boycotts of the two companies’ products Monday, as images of the garments began circulating online. Both designs neglected to identify Hong Kong as part of China, while appearing to imply that Taiwan — considered a renegade province by Beijing — is an independent country.
The outcry comes less than a day after Versace was forced to apologize over a remarkably similar T-shirt, which appeared to list Hong Kong and Macao as countries, rather than cities.
US label Coach swiftly responded to the controversy via social media, saying that it “respects and supports China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The label claimed the design of the T-shirt in question dates back to last year, and that it had already been pulled “from all channels globally.”
“We are fully aware of the severity of this error and deeply regret it,” continued the message, which was posted on Coach’s official Twitter and Instagram channels. The statement added: “Coach is dedicated to long-term development in China, and we respect the feelings of the Chinese people.”
French brand Givenchy followed suit with a post on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblogging site, stating that it “must correct and take immediate precautions against any human negligence and mistakes.
“The Givenchy brand has always respected China’s sovereignty and firmly adhered to the One China principle,” the statement added.
By the time the apologies were issued, both brands had been facing significant backlash from social media users and celebrity brand ambassadors.
At the time of publication, a hashtag relating to the Coach T-shirt had already been read more than 1 billion times on Weibo. Supermodel Liu Wen (pictured top), one of Coach’s brand ambassadors, also took to the platform to announce that she was severing ties with the label.
“At any time, China’s sovereignty and territory integrity are inviolable!” she wrote. “My carelessness in choosing which brand to work with has brought harm to everyone; I apologize to everyone here! I love my motherland and resolutely safeguard China’s sovereignty.”
Liu posted her message alongside a lawyer’s letter announcing her decision to part ways with the brand, as it had “severely hurt the feelings of Chinese people.”
Shortly after, Jackson Yee, a member of one of China’s most popular boy bands, TFBoys, announced on Weibo that he would stop working with Givenchy.
Versace faced similar backlash Sunday, when actress and singer Yang Mi announced that she was terminating her contract with the fashion house in response to its T-shirt design. An announcement posted through Yang’s studio Jiaxing Xingguang, said that: “China’s territorial integrity and sovereignty are sacred and inviolable at all times,” adding: “As a company of the People’s Republic of China and Yang Mi as a citizen of the People’s Republic of China, we are deeply offended.”
The Italian fashion house apologized and confirmed that the item had been recalled. CEO Donatella Versace said on Instagram that she was “deeply sorry for the unfortunate recent error that was made by our company.
Issues around Chinese sovereignty have been especially sensitive in recent months, following weeks protests in Hong Kong. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken part in mass rallies sparked by opposition to a bill that would allow residents to be extradited to China. Some protestors’ demands have since expanded to include calls for universal suffrage.
China’s state-run People’s Daily newspaper criticized Versace and Coach for making “foolish mistakes” during a “sensitive period.