Cancellation, Accountability, and Culture
Photographed by Ella Bussa of Piper Davis and Elxavier Caldwell
Styled by Arianna Line
Directed by Alayna Jones
Hair and Makeup by Sarahi Flores
Director Assist: Melanie Do
Hair and Makeup Assist: Oyu Balijnayam
Photography Assist: Olivia Dibenedetto
By Marisa Fisher
Fashion has always been a business drowned in controversy, whether it be for vulgar designs or statements made by the designers. As an industry, fashion has somehow become better and worse at holding brands and their representatives accountable for their mistakes. While people knowledgeable in the fashion industry and its brands may steer clear of supporting a designer because of racist comments or sexual misconduct, the common consumer usually does not know nor care about how the designer acts. Although the designers may be hit with criticism and scorn, are they getting hit where it really matters to them? Do sales and business drop drastically in regard to a brands controversy, or are consumers not putting their money where their mouth is?
Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, designers for Dolce and Gabbana, have been involved in more controversies than you can count. From racist comments to tax evasion, the Italian brand has always had something to say. After Stefano Gabbana made racist comments about the country of China, many Chinese E-commerce platforms dropped Dolce and Gabbana from their sites, causing a noticeable decrease in sales. “D&G’s revenue share in the Asia-Pacific market, including China, shrank from 25% in the previous year to 22%. In 2021, its sales in China have rebounded by 20% from 2020, but still remain lower than before the misstep. However, combined with the impact of the pandemic, Dolce & Gabbana’s overall sales fell 15% to about 1 billion EUR (around 7.95 billion RMB) in 2021” (Daxueconsulting 2023.)
Despite the economic failure, the brand has seen a lot more popularity among American audiences after their spring summer 2023 collection with Kim Kardashian, and Kourtney Kardashian getting married in Dolce and Gabbana a few months before. This resurgence of the brand has happened with ordinary consumers having no idea about the misdeeds of the designers. Even the Kardashian’s themselves weren’t safe from Stefano Gabbana’s slander, as in 2018 he commented on a fan account calling the Kardashians, “the most cheap people in the world.”
Yeezy, owned by Kanye West, was also a brand that was subject to criticism, but with more of a monetary impact. After West made multiple antisemitic statements, consumers were quick to “cancel” him as a musician and a designer. The criticism, however, was not limited to consumers. Adidas, who were in partnership with Yeezy, even went as far as cutting ties with Yeezy and denouncing the statements West had shared on social media.
This breaking of partnership was a very strong statement from Adidas, as the split cost them 540 million dollars in unsold products that they struggled to find use for. It was also estimated that Yeezy made up for around 15% of Adidas sales, resulting in a huge loss for their company.
However, Adidas weren’t the only ones at a loss. According to Forbes, it was estimated that 1.5 billion dollars of Kanye West’s net worth was from his ties to Adidas. This is one of the few examples of a brand being detrimentally affected in both sales and public image, as many brands seem to at least recover financially in these situations.
In recent years, Balenciaga has become a brand associated with shocking designs that draw the public’s attention. This shock factor that the brand was known for became a little too much for consumers when a campaign was released featuring children holding teddy bears dressed in bondage gear. This association of children with BDSM products disgusted the public, and caused much outrage on social media, spawning many conspiracy theories about what the campaign “actually meant.”
No matter what the meaning was believed to be, it was clear that public opinion was not in favor of Balenciaga, despite the apologies and removal of said campaign. Sales were also affected as well, with Balenciaga’s parent company, Kerring, dropping 3% in effects to the negative press the financial quarter after the controversy.
One interesting occurrence shown in all of these cases, is that celebrities will continue to support brands and work with them, even after denouncing their behavior. Most prominently this is seen with the Kardashians. As stated before, both Kim and Kourtney Kardashian were involved with Dolce and Gabbana within the past year.
Meanwhile, a majority of the family can also be seen wearing Yeezy products. One reason they may favor the brand comes from Kim’s stake in Yeezy gifted by Kanye to her in 2018 as a Mother’s Day gift. While it is unclear if she still holds this stake in the company, it is likely that her support of the brand after her divorce with Kanye West could contribute to the Kardashians’ style choices.
Even Balenciaga is widely known for working with Kim Kardashian, as they famously dressed her for the 2021 Met Gala. After the controversy over the brand, Kim denounced the exploitation of children featured in the campaigns, but she seemed to start silently wearing the brand shortly after this statement.
While celebrities have a large impact on brands visibility and public opinion, the public themselves can decide which brands to support or not. Not purchasing products from questionable brands and avoiding engaging with their content can have a big impact on companies which encourages change from the industry. Speaking out is one of the most powerful tools consumers have, and no matter how little it may seem, the impact can be large.