Gucci ad ignites public fury in China

New Delhi: Gucci’s differentiated treatment of Chinese and Western audience has been slammed by Chinese netizens who say it’s “clearly a manifestation of guilty conscience”, and that the brand knew it has presented a Western-style Asian appearance that would irritate the Chinese audience, Global Times reported.

With the waves stirred by the slanted-eyed model posters of Three Squirrels and Mercedes-Benz still unsettled among the Chinese public, another wave hit the country on Wednesday as an advertisement of Italian luxury fashion brand Gucci was found featuring an Asian-looking model with “scary” makeup, an exaggerated nose ring and a leather whip in her hand, the report said.

In the advertisement for Gucci’s new series of bamboo top handle bags posted online, an Asian-looking female model is seen holding a bag with makeup featuring thin, light eyebrows, small eyes, and high cheek bones that amplify the “Asian face” typically depicted in the Western narrative, the report said.

“It’s not about how the model herself looked like, nor does it indicate that we refuse any other bold or innovative fashion styles other than the traditional sense of beauty. It’s about whether a model has been portrayed to specially cater to the Western eyes, or has it been deliberately creating an atmosphere, with Western stereotypes steering the wind behind,” a Beijing resident told the Global Times.

Some find the nose ring and the leather whip particularly disturbing.

“The photos gave me a chill. The scary makeup and the atmosphere are just morbid,” said one netizen.

The controversy surrounding the “Asian face”, which has ignited public fury in recent days, started on Sunday with an advertisement by a famous Chinese snack retailer Three Squirrels. It posted a model featuring small, slanted eyes that netizens accused of catering to the Western stereotypes and an insult to Chinese people.

Soon afterwards, some found German automobile giant Mercedes Benz posting models with similar styles of makeup that emphasised the slanted eyes in one of its advertisements published on Saturday, the report said.

Both brands have removed the controversial advertisements, but the debates continue. Many netizens mentioned that the opinions should not be overstated and the issue should not be turned into a “political trial”, but the fashion world must no longer cater to Western aesthetics and should align with the aesthetics of the Chinese people, the report added.


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