Versace's first China ambassador Yang Mi, one of the country's most popular actors and singers, severed all ties with the Italian fashion house over an offending T-Shirt, which has since been destroyed.
Versace has apologised twice after its first Chinese ambassador, well-known actress and singer Yang Mi, ripped up her contract after the Italian fashion house produced politically incorrect T-shirts.
Yang Mi, ranked third on the Forbes China Celebrity 100 list in 2017, ended her contract and stopped all work with Versace after its T-shirt listed the Chinese-controlled territories of Hong Kong and Macau as countries.
“China’s territorial integrity and sovereignty are sacred and inviolable at all times,” said Yang’s studio production company Jiaxing Media in a statement.
The T-shirt, images of which were widely posted on social media in China, featured a list of “city-country” pairing, including New York – USA, Sydney – Australia and Beijing – China. It also described Hong Kong and Macau as Hong Kong – Hong Kong and Macau – Macao.
Versace, which was bought by Michael Kors’ Capri Holdings Ltd in September last year, said on its Weibo account that it had made a mistake and, as of 24 July, had stopped selling and destroyed the T-shirts.
Donatella Versace, sister of the fashion house’s late founder Gianni, issued a similar statement on her official Instagram account.
“Never have I wanted to disrespect China’s National Sovereignty and this is why I wanted to personally apologise for such inaccuracy and for any distress that it might have caused,” she wrote.
View this post on Instagram
“I am deeply sorry for the unfortunate recent error that was made by our Company and that is being currently discussed on various social media channels. Never have I wanted to disrespect China’s National Sovereignty and this is why I wanted to personally apologize for such inaccuracy and for any distress that it might have caused.” @donatella_versace
The Milan-based luxury clothing manufacturer is the latest company to become entangled in political issues involving China, which since last year has increased its policing of how foreign firms describe Hong Kong and Macau, former European colonies that are now part of China but run with a high degree of autonomy.
The ending of Yang’s relationship with Versace was one of the most viewed topics on Weibo on Sunday, attracting over 640 million views.
“Versace suspected of supporting Hong Kong and Macau secession” became a trending hashtag, and the claims were amplified and promoted by state media.
The T-shirt controversy comes at a sensitive time with ongoing protests in Hong Kong considered by Chinese officials as a violent attempt to seek independence and undermine the “one country, two systems” arrangement.
Many residents took to Twitter and Facebook to share their views.
But others have defended Versace for (inadvertently) implying Hong Kong was completely independent of China in its T-shirt design, with one Twitter user saying “Props to @Versace for supporting the independence of Hong Kong!!”.