SHANGHAI, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Dolce & Gabbana's co-founders asked for China's "forgiveness" on Friday, trying to salvage a crucial market for the luxury brand after a backlash against its latest advertising campaign.
The Italian fashion house canceled a marquee show in Shanghai on Wednesday after celebrities and social media users threatened a boycott over the campaign, which led e-commerce firms to pull Dolce & Gabbana items on Thursday.
The furore is a setback for one of Italy's best-known fashion brands in China, where rivals from Louis Vuitton of LVMH to Kering's Gucci are vying to expand.
Chinese buyers account for more than a third of spending on luxury goods worldwide, and are increasingly shopping at home rather than on overseas trips.
Users slammed the video campaign in which a Chinese woman struggles to eat pizza and pasta with chopsticks while the narrator offers eating lessons in a patronizing tone.
The blunder was compounded when screenshots were circulated online of a private Instagram conversation, in which designer Stefano Gabbana makes a reference to "China Ignorant Dirty Smelling Mafia" and uses the smiling poo emoji to describe the country. The company said Gabbana's account had been hacked.
Photos of the week: 11/16 - 11/23
Photos of the week: 11/16 - 11/23
Chicago police comfort one another as they leave the University of Chicago Medical Center Monday, Nov. 19, 2018 to join a procession accompanying an ambulance bearing the body of Officer Samuel Jimenez, who was shot and killed at a separate South Side hospital earlier Monday. (Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
A migrant, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, climbs the border fence between Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico, November 18, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
PARADISE, CA - NOVEMBER 21: Tables and chairs remain next to a restaurant that was destroyed by the Camp Fire on November 21, 2018 in Paradise, California. Fueled by high winds and low humidity the Camp Fire ripped through the town of Paradise charring over 150,000 acres, killed at least 83 people and has destroyed over 18,000 homes and businesses. The fire is currently at 85 percent containment and hundreds of people still remain missing. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
DONNA, TX - NOVEMBER 22: A U.S. Army soldier winds up to throw a football as he and other troops deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border celebrate Thanksgiving at a base near the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge on November 22, 2018 in Donna, Texas. Culinary specialists prepared 34 Turkeys along with a full Thanksgiving buffet for the hundreds of troops stationed between Donna and Weslaco, Texas. (Photo by Tamir Kalifa/Getty Images)
A woman checks her phone as balloons move through Sixth Avenue during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
Britain's Meghan, Duchess of Sussex visits the Hubb Community Kitchen to see how funds raised by the 'Together: Our Community' cookbook are making a difference at Al Manaar, in London, Britain on November 21, 2018. Chris Jackson/Pool via REUTERS
Kira, a 23-year-old western lowland gorilla, holds her newborn baby in its enclosure at the Moscow Zoo in Moscow, Russia November 21, 2018. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Steam rises from Fuego volcano (Volcano of Fire) as seen from San Juan Alotenango, outside of Guatemala City, Guatemala November 19, 2018. REUTERS/Luis Echeverria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People wait in line to pay at a Walmart during a sales event on Thanksgiving day in Westbury, New York, U.S., November 22, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Santa Claus pays a visit on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., November 21, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
GREELEY CO - NOVEMBER 19: Christopher Watts is brought into court for his sentencing hearing at the Weld County Courthouse on November 19, 2018 in Greeley, Colorado. Watts was sentenced to life in prison for murdering his pregnant wife, daughters. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
A woman with her face painted takes part in a march against sexism and gender violence, in Santiago, Chile, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Jacob Saylors, 11, looks at the wedding ring his mother Zeatra Saylor found in the burned remains of their home in Paradise, California on November 18, 2018. - The family lost a home in the same spot to a fire 10 years prior. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by Josh Edelson has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [Jacob Saylors] instead of [Jeremie Saylors]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump talks with troops via teleconference from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Migrant children, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, play together in front of the border wall with the United States, while they rest in a temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico, November 18, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 19: Peas and Carrots, the National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate, walk in their hotel room at the Willard Hotel after being introduced to members of the media during a press conference held by the National Turkey Federation November 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. The two turkeys will both be 'pardoned' following the presentation of the national turkey to U.S. President Donald Trump scheduled for tomorrow. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
A boy plays on the glass at Thailand's first skywalk in Bangkok, Thailand November 18, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Cable News Network (CNN) Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta departs after a judge temporarily restored Acosta's White House press credentials following a hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., November 16, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
TOPSHOT - Employee Jeferson Deodata da Silva selects a book from the shelves of the Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on November 19, 2018. - The institution was founded in 1837 by a group of forty-three Portuguese immigrants -political refugees- to promote culture among the Portuguese community in Brazil. Opened to the public since 1900, the collection receives around 6,000 new titles a year and houses many rare and valuable books which are available to view by the public on request. (Photo by Carl DE SOUZA / AFP) (Photo credit should read CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Special Response Team (SRT) officers are seen through concertina wire at the San Ysidro Port of Entry after the land border crossing was temporarily closed to traffic in Tijuana, Mexico November 19, 2018. REUTERS/Adrees Latif TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump receive the official White House Christmas tree at the North Portico of the White House in Washington, U.S., November 19, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A man riding a motorbike passes over a burning barricade during a general strike in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, November 19, 2018. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
SIVAS, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 17: A shepherd grazes his sheep after a snowfall in Hafik district of Turkey's Sivas province on November 17, 2018.
(Photo by Muzaffer Akyuz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SALTBURN BY THE SEA, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 20: A rainbow forms over a windswept North Sea on November 20, 2018 in Saltburn By The Sea, England. Cold easterly winds are expected to bring lower temperatures across the country this week. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
Visitors view light installations as the illuminated trail opens at Kew Gardens in west London, Britain, November 21, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
An Indian Muslim father tries to put his son on a camels back as other watches during a procession to celebrate Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi or the birthday of Prophet Mohammed in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
A pedestrian walks down a stairway through a row of trees during a rainy autumn day, in Pamplona, northern Spain, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
Birds sit on the back of a zebra in the Nairobi National Park, near Nairobi, Kenya, November 21, 2018. REUTERS/Baz Ratner TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Romaine lettuce has been taken off the shelf for fear of an E. coli outbreak at this grocery store in Toronto, Ontario, Canada November 21, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio
CHICO, CA - NOVEMBER 21: A Camp Fire evacuee carries his tent as rain falls at a temporary evacuation center next to a Walmart store on November 21, 2018 in Chico, California. Fueled by high winds and low humidity the Camp Fire ripped through the town of Paradise charring over 150,000 acres, killed at least 81 people and has destroyed over 18,000 homes and businesses. The fire is currently at 80 percent containment and hundreds of people still remain missing. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
PARADISE, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 21: Search and rescue crews dig through the burnt remains of a business as they search for human remains on November 21, 2018 in Paradise, California. Fueled by high winds and low humidity the Camp Fire ripped through the town of Paradise charring over 150,000 acres, killed at least 81 people and has destroyed over 18,000 homes and businesses. The fire is currently at 80 percent containment and hundreds of people still remain missing. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A school girl with painted face participates in an event to mark World Toilet Day in New Delhi, India, November 19, 2018. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Chicago firefighters and police salute the ambulance carrying the body of Officer Samuel Jimenez outside of the Medical Examiners office at Leavitt and West Harrison streets in Chicago on Nov. 19, 2018. Jimenez was killed at Mercy Hospital today. (Armando Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
A Charlie Brown balloon hovers above the crowd during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Manhattan,New York, U.S., November 22, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A nun takes photos as a crane lifts a 21mt (68 feet) tall fir tree in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. The tree, which will be trimmed as a Christmas tree, comes from the Forest of Consiglio in north-eastern Italy and was donated by the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
TOPSHOT - A picture taken on November 20, 2018 shows new-born giraffe Ella and her mother Amalka at their enclosure at Berlin's Tierpark zoo. - Five-year old giraffe Amalka gave birth to the baby on November 3, 2018. (Photo by Paul Zinken / dpa / AFP) / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read PAUL ZINKEN/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 22: A parade participant makes a snow angel from confetti during the 92nd annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 22, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May joins a parent and baby group during a visit to the a health centre in north London, Thursday Nov. 22, 2018. (Andrew Matthews/Pool via AP)
In this Nov. 22, 2018, photo, Indian laborers standing on scaffolding shift steel rods from the ground to the top of an under construction hospital building in Greater Noida, near New Delhi, India. Building work in the capital region has resumed after authorities last week lifted a ban on construction activities they had imposed to combat air pollution. (AP Photo/R S Iyer, File)
The sun peaks over the horizon and lights up the sky along the West Palm Beach, Fla., waterfront, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
In a video apology on Friday, Gabbana and co-founder Domenico Dolce said they had "reflected seriously" and were saddened by the impact of their words.
"In the face of our cultural misunderstanding, we hope that we can earn your forgiveness," Dolce, speaking in Italian, said in the video of the two designers seated side-by-side.
The 85-second video with Chinese subtitles was posted on China's Twitter-like platform, Weibo.
Gabbana also asked for forgiveness and offered a formal apology to Chinese people around the world. The designers ended the video by saying sorry in Mandarin.
"We will never forget this experience and lesson, and this sort of thing will never happen again," Gabbana said.
It's not the first gaffe by Dolce & Gabbana in China, where the brand came under fire on social media last year for a series of advertisements showing the grungy side of Chinese life.
Other upsets have come and gone in China without appearing to cause lasting damage, including at brands like Kering's Balenciaga, which apologized in April amid a backlash over how some Chinese customers had been treated in Paris.
However, the crisis for Dolce & Gabbana showed no sign of easing on Friday. Retailer Lane Crawford said it would pull the brand from its stores and online sites in mainland China and Hong Kong after customers had returned Dolce & Gabbana items.
Most of the comments posted under the apology video on Weibo were also critical.
"We don't have to accept your apology. Go and make money in other countries, there's none for you here in China," one user wrote.