Dior sparks local controversy over photo of Asian woman at Shanghai exhibition

Dior sparks local controversy over photo of Asian woman at Shanghai exhibitionDior sparks local controversy over photo of Asian woman at Shanghai exhibition
Photographer Chen Man
Carl Samson
November 19, 2021
Dior has drawn criticism in China over a photo in its exhibition that purportedly caters to Western aesthetics vilifying Asian women.
Driving the news: The image, shot by Chinese photographer Chen Man, appeared in the French brand’s “LADY DIOR” exhibit in Shanghai. It shows an Asian woman wearing a traditional dress and holding a Dior bag to complete her look.
  • The photo, which was also posted on Dior’s Weibo page, soon became the subject of a hit piece from the state-owned Beijing Daily. The news outlet asked, “Is this the Asian woman in Dior’s eyes?” and slammed it for featuring “spooky eyes, gloomy face and Qing Dynasty armor.”
  • “The photographer is playing up to the brands, or the aesthetic tastes of the western world,” Bloomberg translated the publication as saying. “For years, Asian women have always appeared with small eyes and freckles from the Western perspective, but the Chinese way to appreciate art and beauty can’t be distorted by that.”
Controversial photo of Asian woman on Dior's Weibo
Image via Weibo
  • Some users pointed out that the image is reminiscent of Chen’s 2012 series called “Whatever the Weather,” which was shot for British magazine i-D. The series featured 12 women from different Chinese ethnic groups wearing modern spins on traditional clothing.
  • State-run Global Times took a more neutral approach on the issue. While reporting similar criticisms, the outlet acknowledged that some praised Chen’s work for departing from China’s own beauty standards, which include having large eyes and fair skin.
Photographer Chen Man
Image via Weibo
The big picture: The controversy has shed light on the need for international brands to exercise better cultural sensitivity in China, which has now become the world’s richest country. Dior has since removed the photo in question from its exhibition and Weibo account and so far escaped calls for a boycott.
  • This is not the first time Dior caused controversy in China. In 2019, the brand gave a presentation at a university that excluded Taiwan in a map of China. The ensuing backlash forced the company to issue an apology. “Dior always respects and upholds the one China principle, strictly safeguards China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and treasures the feelings of the Chinese people,” it said at the time, according to Reuters.
  • Still, Dior is only one of multiple luxury brands that have upset China over political and cultural insensitivities. In 2018, Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana released a series of ads that depicted Chinese people as lacking refinement in eating foreign food. Amid the scandal, co-founder Stefano Gabbana was also accused of calling China “the country of sh*t.” Fashion watchdog Diet Prada, which broke the controversy on Instagram, has been sued by the brand for defamation.
Featured Image via Weibo
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