Versace courts controversy in China with Hong Kong T-shirt design

The backlash against Versace follows anti-government protests in Hong Kong / Versace

Versace is the latest western designer facing a backlash in China after producing a T-shirt which appeared to refer to Hong Kong and Macau as independent countries.

Part of a fresh city-country range of casual wear, the offending garbs featured a design that paired cities with nations (like London-UK and Milan-Italy). In China’s case, however, the special administrative region of Hong Kong broke from this convention having been labelled as Hong Kong – Hong Kong, with the same format as used for Macau.

Beijing claims both countries as part of its territory, with the backlash against Versace following weeks of anti-government protests in Hong Kong; where activists have been demanding independence from mainland China.

Coming amid heightened sensitivity over Hong Kong's territorial status, Versace's design drew swift condemnation from some Chinese consumers on Weibo, who perceived it as being politically-charged. As a result, the Italian fashion house has been forced to ditch the range and issue an apology saying it "respects the sovereignty of China's territorial state".

In a statement posted on Instagram the fashion firm’s artistic director, Donatella Versace added: "Never have I wanted to disrespect China's National Sovereignty and this is why I wanted to personally apologise for such inaccuracy and any distress that it might have caused.”

These words proved too little, too late to persuade the luxury brand's Chinese brand ambassador, actress Yang Mi, from resigning with the words: “China's territorial integrity and sovereignty are sacred and inviolable at all times.”

China has proven to be a minefield for western fashion brands with a "creepy" Burberry ad missing the mark not long after Dolce & Gabbana came unstuck amid a racist ad scandal in the country.

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