Three luxury fashion houses—Versace, Coach, and Givenchy—have issued apologies to Chinese consumers after t-shirts released by the respective brands allegedly undermined China's territorial claims over Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau.
Over the weekend, Versace apologized for a t-shirt that listed Hong Kong and Macau as independent countries rather than semi-autonomous, special administrative regions of China. Yang Mi, an actress and singer, announced that she would be terminating her contract with the Italian fashion house on account of the disrespect towards China's national sovereignty.
"China's territorial integrity and sovereignty are sacred and inviolable at all times," her statement read. "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. It is the duty of all Chinese citizens to uphold the 'One China' principle and adamantly safeguard national unification."
The company as well as creative director Donatella Versace, both issued statements in attempts to minimize the backlash.
Versace isn't the only brand to spark backlash among Chinese consumers, as both Coach and Givenchy have released remarkably similar garments that failed to identify Hong Kong as part of China. The products from both brands also insinuated that Taiwan, considered a breakaway province by Beijing, is a sovereign country. Social media users in China called for a boycott of all three brands after photos of the products began circulating online.
"We are fully aware of the severity of this error and deeply regret it," Coach's official apology read. "Coach is dedicated to long-term development in China, and we respect the feelings of the Chinese people."
The company added that it, "respects and supports China's sovereignty and territorial integrity." The Coach t-shirt is allegedly from last year, according to the brand, and it has already been pulled from "all channels globally."
Givenchy similarly apologized for how its t-shirt may have offended Chinese consumers.
"The Givenchy brand has always respected China's sovereignty and firmly adhered to the One China principle," the company's statement read. The apology continued by noting that Givenchy, "must correct and take immediate precautions against any human negligence and mistakes."
Several Chinese celebrities, including supermodel Liu Wen, a Coach ambassador, and Jackson Yee, who has worked with Givenchy in the past, announced they would be severing ties with the brands on account of the missteps.
Hong Kong is currently the site of fierce anti-government protests, as pro-democracy protestors are demanding more autonomy from mainland China. The central government in Beijing has actively attempted to suppress the protests, which arrived after an extradition bill was introduced that would expand Beijing's control over the sprawling metropolis. The current sensitivity surrounding Hong Kong-Beijing relations likely heightened the criticisms of the brands' t-shirt designs.