Dolce & Gabbana Is Suing Diet Prada For Calling Out Anti-Asian Ads — Now The IG Account Is Fighting Back

Photo: getty
Dolce & Gabbana

In 2019, legendary Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana began taking steps to silence criticism from fashion watchdog Diet Prada.

The defamation lawsuit asks that the co-founders of the popular Instagram account, Tony Liu and Lindsey Schuyler, be held liable for lost revenue and other harm. The damages requested are equivalent to $3.5 million payable to the Dolce & Gabbana corporation, as well as an additional $1.2 million to co-founder and designer Stefano Gabbana.

Today, every fashionista’s favorite Instagram account announced that not only are they standing their ground, but they are also fighting back.

In a post shared with their 2.5 million followers (and anyone else who chooses to look), Diet Prada announced they had filed "a defense of their freedom of speech in answer to defamation claims brought in a Milan court by Dolce & Gabbana."

The caption begins by explaining the timing of their latest action: "With so much anti-Asian hate spreading in the U.S.," they wrote, "it feels wrong to continue to remain silent about a lawsuit that threatens our freedom of speech."

Why is Dolce & Gabbana suing Diet Prada — and why is Diet Prada speaking up again two years after the case was filed?

The lawsuit was filed in response to the drama and scrutiny surrounding Dolce & Gabbana's controversial #DGLovesChina campaign and fashion show back in 2018.

RELATED: 6 Ways To Be An Ally For Asian-Americans Right Now

The Controversial Videos

In the run-up to what was intended to be a one-hour, multimillion-dollar fashion show in Shanghai, the brand had released a series of three promotional videos titled "eating with chopsticks" to their social media accounts. Each showed a female Asian model struggling to eat Italian food with chopsticks as a male voice offers condescending "instructions."

The videos quickly drew criticism from people across social media, including many in China who felt Dolce & Gabbana was promoting racist and sexist stereotypes and questioning "if the brand was only interested in portraying a backward image of the country."

Even long-time fans of the fashion legends were horrified by Dolce & Gabbana's misguided attempt to appeal to the lucrative Chinese market.

In just one example of the outrage that was literally ignited, the New York Times reported that Shanghai-based director and writer Xiang Kai "burned more than $20,000 worth of Dolce & Gabbana products, including coats, a vest and bags."

Diet Prada led the critical debate by reposting the content, which Dolce & Gabbana deleted from their own profiles in the face of the backlash.

“Pandering at its finest, but taken up a notch by painting their target demographic as a tired and false stereotype of people lacking refinement/culture to understand how to eat foreign foods,” they wrote in a post about the video at the time.

Diet Prada also provided English subtitles so followers in the U.S. could understand what was being said in Mandarin in the original videos. In doing so they revealed sexist statements made by the narrator including: “It’s still way too big for you, isn’t it?”

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Join now for YourTango's trending articles, top expert advice and personal horoscopes delivered straight to your inbox each morning.

The added insight strengthened the position of those who felt Dolce & Gabbana was engaging in the fetishization and ridicule of Asian people with their campaign, and things only got worse from there.

The Screenshots and Hacking Claims

The day before the scheduled Shanghai show, Diet Prada shared screenshots of what appears to be direct messages from Stefano Gabbana in which he says he had no interest in taking down the offensive videos before going to hurl insults at the Chinese.

"it was deleted from Chinese social media because my office is stupid as is the superiority of the Chinese ... And from now on in all the interview that I will do international I will say that the country of [series of poop emojis] is China."

Gabbana denied having sent the messages, insisting his account had been hacked, but it was too little too late. The negative response led Dolce & Gabbana to cancel the show and issue an apology.

Even after admitting the campaign had been a lapse of judgment, Dolce & Gabbana showed a lack of remorse behind the scenes by choosing to go blame Diet Prada for the company's ensuing financial woes.

According to Diet Prada’s most recent statement, the brand filed an action for defamation against them in civil court in Italy back in 2019.

The lawsuit claims that Diet Prada is solely responsible for the loss of revenue experienced by the brand and its founder after their criticism of the campaign prompted the cancellation of the 2018 event.

The Current Defense of Freedom of Speech

Diet Prada is known for calling out misconduct, controversy, racism, and discrimination in the fashion industry. And while many have spoken in favor of and against what many think of as cancel culture, this appears to be the first time a brand is attempting to cancel their cancellers.

Schuyler and Liu, who is an Asian-American, note that during a national reckoning about the mistreatment of Asians, this lawsuit serves as yet another example of powerful people attempting to silence minority voices.

“Having cultivated Diet Prada as a platform where we can denounce racism, amplify stories from the larger BIPOC community, and hold the fashion industry to a higher ethical standard, has been one of the most rewarding experiences thus far and our only hope is to protect that,” they told their followers.

The expensive nature of the lawsuit prompted the duo to seek pro bono legal aid through the nonprofit Fashion Law Institute, based at Fordham Law School, and an Italian law firm is offering help at a reduced rate.

The partners have also started a GoFundMe to help with the legal expenses.

"Going up against a large luxury brand is daunting," they say on their fundraising page, "but your contribution means we can continue protecting our fundamental rights, but also preserve what is so special about the Diet Prada community."

The financial and emotional support is already pouring in.

"Love you Diet Prada!" one fan wrote. "I will always support you in standing up for what is right — calling out anti-Asian racism and hatred. Keep fighting the good fight!"

RELATED: We Stand In Solidarity With The Asian Community Experiencing Xenophobia Right Now

Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment.