Coach, Givenchy Apologize Over T-Shirts Labeling Hong Kong, Taiwan as Separate Countries

Coach and Givenchy both apologized today for selling T-shirts that mischaracterized Chinese territories as independent countries — just one day after Versace took heat for a similar design.

The luxury labels each issued apologies on Chinese networking platform Weibo today following criticism from netizens and from their Chinese brand ambassadors.

Coach and Givenchy were both selling T-shirts that presented Taiwan and Hong Kong — defined as special administrative regions of China — as independent nations. (After a century of British rule, Hong Kong has been part of China since 1997; Taiwan is self-administered and has been in a years-long standoff with China, which considers it to be a rogue province.) Netizens felt that the shirts conflicted with the “One China” policy.

Supermodel Liu Wen, a Coach ambassador, distanced herself from the brand in a statement posted to Weibo.

“At all times, China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must not be violated. Because of the inaccuracy of the brand I chose and the hurt it has brought to everyone, I apologize to everyone here,” she wrote. “I passionately love my mother country and safeguard China’s sovereignty.”

Within hours of Liu’s post, Coach issued a statement apologizing for the design, saying it was “deeply aware of the seriousness of the problem” and had taken “urgent measures to remove the good[s] from shelves.”

“We apologize for the hurt feelings of consumers,” the statement read. “Coach is committed to long-term development in China, respects the feelings of the Chinese people, and sincerely accepts the supervision and correction of the vast number of consumers.”

After Givenchy’s T-shirt design went viral, brand ambassador Jackson Yee of boy band TFBoys said he felt “extreme indignation” about the shirt and had sent Givenchy a cancellation notice.

In response to the criticism, Givenchy issued a statement to its Weibo page apologizing for its design.

“For any human negligence or mistake, we must correct it immediately and take it as a warning. Givenchy always respects China’s sovereignty, firmly upholds the one-China principle and is unswerving,” read the statement.

The fallout for Coach and Givenchy comes after Donatella Versace apologized this weekend for a similar design produced by her label. Versace lost its first Chinese brand ambassador, the actress Yang Mi, as a result of its mislabeled T-shirt.

The T-shirt debacles come amid increased China-Hong Kong tensions. Protests in H.K. are entering their 10th week and have spread from the streets to the airport, one of the world’s busiest. All flights were canceled today as thousands flooded the terminal.

This not the first time brands have found themselves embroiled in controversy with Chinese customers.

Nike pulled its collaboration with Japanese streetwear label Undercover from Chinese shelves in June after Undercover shared a post supporting contentious protests against a proposal to allow extraditions from Hong Kong to mainland China. Additionally, Dolce & Gabbana canceled a planned Shanghai runway show in November 2018 following alleged racist remarks made by designer Stefano Gabbana and a social media campaign that critics slammed as culturally insensitive.

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