The Versace T-shirt vs China


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It’s not just the Trump administration’s trade war that seems to have run afoul of the legendary Chinese touchiness about its sovereignty; ultra-brand Versace, are also, seemingly, having to kowtow to the tiger economy of the east. It is no wonder that they are scrambling to placate Chinese authorities, with China set to overtake the US as the worlds’ biggest economy as early as Q1 of 2020. What caused the fracas? What set the tiger amongst the legendary fashion houses? You guessed it: The Humble t-shirt.

The t-shirt in question had a series of city names, paired with their countries, printed on the back, including listing Hong Kong and Macao as not belonging to China, but rather, to themselves. This irked Chinese authorities and caused such a furore over social media that Versace brand ambassador, Chinese actress Yang Mi severed ties with Versace, later releasing a statement which cited “China’s territorial sovereignty and integrity are sacred and inviolable.” This was followed up by a quick statement on Instagram from Donatella Versace herself, personally apologizing for the upset her brand seemed to have caused.


This isn’t the first time a company has run afoul of China’s territorial claims. Gap recently apologized for a t-shirt with a map of mainland China printed on the back which neglected to include China’s island territories such as Taiwan. Apologies have also been issued by Delta airlines and Marriott hotels when the information on their websites failed to support Chinese sovereign claims.

The offending Versace t-shirt has subsequently been destroyed, according to a statement from Versace, making the few in circulation true collectors’ items. So if you managed to snag one, hang onto it, it ought to fetch a pretty penny on eBay in the coming months.

Although China is not the first customer to have a hysterical reaction to a badly printed t-shirt, they probably won’t be the last. And, when one-third of the world’s economy might boycott your products and services, apologies tend to come thick and fast from the CEO’s desk. With this in mind, it is probably time to point out that getting the place names wrong for Macao and Hong Kong were not the only printing errors on this unhappy tee. As it turns out, and to add insult to injury, Brussels, Belgium had its name printed as “Brussells,” although it is not clear if a trembling and formal apology has yet been issued to the small European state, famous for its delightful beer, its chocolate, its cruciferous vegetables, and mild temperance, if not it’s tiger economy.