Luxury brands Coach and Givenchy have rushed to reassure Chinese customers that they respect China’s territorial integrity after they found themselves in hot water over products listing Hong Kong and Taiwan as separate countries.
The news comes less than a day after Italian fashion giant Versace issued an apology over the same kind of mishap, after a print on the brand’s garment listed Hong Kong and Macao as countries sparking an outcry from Chinese netizens.
US label Coach came under fire from Chinese consumers after the images of a t-shirt, which is reportedly part of a Coach and Disney collection, released in May 2018, surfaced online on Monday morning. Taiwan and Hong Kong were featured, without reference to China, on the back of the T-shirt. It listed cities alongside their country names, such as “Tokyo, Japan” and “Chicago, United States.” However
The design sparked outrage among the users of China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo, with some calling for a boycott of the brands for disrespecting their country’s sovereignty. Coach was also criticized for the store locator on its website which listed Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan as three separate states.
The US label was quick to release a statement acknowledging “the severity of this error,” promising to correct it and assuring that it “respects China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
“We also reviewed our entire assortment to ensure compliance, and have strengthened our internal product development process to avoid the occurrence of a similar issue in the future,” Coach said. “We have also taken immediate action to review and correct relevant website content.”
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Separately, French brand Givenchy also apologized for wrongfully listing parts of China on its products after an online backlash. The label said 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 read.
The luxury brands’ mishaps cost them the support of their celebrity representatives in the large Chinese market. Model Liu Wen, a current brand ambassador for Coach, stopped working with the fashion house on Monday, saying that the label’s behavior should be “condemned seriously.” Meanwhile, popular Chinese singer and actor Jackson Yee also took to Weibo to announce that he is terminating cooperation with Givenchy. Earlier, actress Yang Mi tore up her contract with Versace.
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In addition to gaffes by European brands, watchful Chinese social media users noted that Japanese sports brand Asics had made similar mistakes on its website, listing Chinese regions as independent countries. Asics China was quick to issue an apology, stressing that it respects the country’s territorial integrity.
Beijing has been meticulously watching companies who respect its ‘One China’ policy. Last year, Chinese authorities demanded that 44 foreign airlines and other firms refer to Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan as part of the country instead of separate listings. In 2018, Marriott International’s Chinese website was shut down after the hotel chain named Tibet and Taiwan as separate countries in a customer questionnaire.