Photographer apologizes, Dior pulls work after backlash in China over model's 'Western' depiction

HONG KONG – A Chinese fashion photographer apologized for working for French luxury brand Dior following backlash.

The picture showed a brown, freckled model of Asian descent in traditional Chinese clothing while holding a black Lady Dior bag. It has been criticized for maintaining western stereotypes of East Asian faces and failing to represent the standards of beauty in the region, which usually favor lighter skin and big eyes.

The photo was removed from the exhibition in the wake of controversy at a Dior fashion show in Shanghai.

Chen Man acknowledged criticism of the photo as well as some of her earlier work.

“I thought about it deeply and accused myself of my naivety and ignorance at the time. I think I still have to formally apologize to everyone, ”said Chen when reaching out to followers on social media earlier this week.

“I am Chinese, born and raised, and I love our country deeply,” she added in the post, which generated reactions from thousands of users. “

“I know that, as an artist, it is my responsibility to document and present Chinese culture through my work. I will study more history and attend more relevant events to strengthen my ideologies. ”

Their apology follows heavy criticism from some internet users on Weibo, a social media platform in China that is similar to Twitter.

Many users expressed their anger at what they saw as the high-profile visual representation of Chinese women adopting another culture’s standards of beauty.

“Why do you want to maliciously distort and denigrate China? That’s because the fashion community is dominated by westerners, ”said one user, citing the view that the western lens promotes a traditional view of Chinese women that is different from local depictions of beauty.

Chen, the photographer, is highly regarded.

In 2019, the Global Times, an English-language Communist Party newspaper, named it China’s answer to US photographer Annie Leibovitz, calling it a “shining star” with a unique perspective.

But she is also no stranger to controversies. It made headlines back in 2012 when social media users also questioned their portrayals of various Chinese ethnic minorities for the British fashion magazine iD.

China has a huge market for luxury brands and could become the world’s largest luxury market by 2025. according to some estimates. But it is lucrative, but also offers challenges for western companies.

Dior emphasized that Chen’s photography was part of an art project for the company and “not a commercial advertisement for Dior.”

“Dior always respects the feelings of the Chinese and strictly adheres to Chinese laws and regulations,” the French brand said on Wednesday in a statement on its Chinese social media account. “When errors occur, we receive feedback and take immediate action to correct it,” it said. “Dior is unshakable loyal to Chinese consumers and society. ”

NBC News approached Dior for a comment.

It’s not the first time Dior has been in the hot seat when it comes to China.

In 2019, an employee at a company recruiting event used a map that didn’t include Taiwan. China sees the self-governing island as part of its territory, but Taiwan has rejected this idea several times.

And Dior isn’t the only western brand facing problems like this. Earlier this year, several fashion companies, including H&M, Nike and Burberry, faced backlash on social media and even boycotts over their stance on cotton, made in Xinjiang, home of the country’s Uighur Muslim minority.

In 2018, Dolce & Gabbana caused outrage with an ad showing an Asian model instructed to eat Italian foods like spaghetti and pizza with a pair of chopsticks. The videos were later removed.

Associated press contributed.

Leave a Comment