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Friday, Aug 16, 2019

After Versace, Now Coach Faces China Backlash Over T-Shirts

fashion-and-trends Updated: Aug 12, 2019 12:03 IST
American fashion label Coach is now facing backlash from Chinese consumers.
American fashion label Coach is now facing backlash from Chinese consumers. (Coach/Instagram )

Another day, another luxury brand runs afoul of political sensitivities in China.

Less than 24 hours after Versace apologised for T-shirts that defied China’s “One China policy,” American fashion label Coach is now facing backlash from Chinese consumers for a strikingly similar faux pas.

After pictures circulated online of a T-shirt allegedly sold by Coach that suggests Hong Kong and Taiwan are countries, rather than cities, calls grew over social media for a boycott of the Tapestry Inc.-owned label. Coach’s brand ambassador, Chinese supermodel Liu Wen, said Monday on Weibo that she would terminate her relationship with the brand for “seriously hurting the Chinese people’s feelings”.


Coach did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On Sunday, Versace apologised in an official Weibo post for a “wrong design”. Its T-shirts listed Hong Kong and Macau as countries, although both are special administrative regions of China. The T-shirts were taken off shelves on July 24 and have been destroyed, Versace said.

Versace Loses Chinese Brand Ambassador Amid T-Shirt Controversy

Coach and Versace’s T-shirts are the latest in a string of missteps by foreign companies in China. Last year, an advertisement from Dolce & Gabbana that showed a Chinese model struggling to eat spaghetti and pizza with chopsticks sparked outrage and a boycott of its products. Earlier this year, Leica Camera AG quickly distanced itself from a promotional video that prompted a backlash against the company in China for partially focusing on the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests.

The T-shirt controversy comes as sensitivities around China and Hong Kong have intensified in the past two months with anti-Beijing protests in the city in their 10th week. This weekend, demonstrations spilled over from city streets to a sit-in at the airport, the world’s third-busiest in terms of international passengers.

Versace’s Chinese brand ambassador Yang Mi, an actress known for films like Eternal Love and the Tiny Times series, said Sunday that she has ended her relationship with the Italian fashion house because it has harmed China’s sovereign and territorial integrity. Versace designer Donatella Versace apologized in a post on Instagram on Sunday for an “unfortunate error.“


Coach in a social media post across platforms shared a message saying, “Coach respects and supports China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. In May 2018, we found a serious inaccuracy in the design of a few T-shirts. We immediately pulled those products from all channels globally. 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. We are fully aware of the severity of this error and deeply regret it. We have also taken immediate action to review and correct relevant website content. Coach is dedicated to long-term development in China, and we respect the feelings of the Chinese people. We will continue to strive to provide exceptional products and service to Chinese customers.”

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Wendy Hu in Beijing at

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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First Published: Aug 12, 2019 12:01 IST

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