D&G and a sorry state of affairs

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 January, 2012, 12:00am


How difficult is it to apologise for making a mistake? Two weeks into a photo-ban furore, Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana has finally said it is 'truly sorry' for having offended Hong Kong people. The apology, although welcome, has come too late. The damage has already been done.

While details of precisely how this controversy arose remain unclear, it could have been avoided if the principle that 'the customer is always right' had been applied from the outset. There must be something wrong when a shop is repeatedly besieged by angry crowds demanding an apology. People are upset by an alleged ban on Hong Kong people taking pictures of the luxury chain's shop, while wealthy tourists from the mainland are permitted.

The campaign, fuelled through social media, should not have been allowed to escalate. However the controversy began, it reflected badly on the company and an apology should have been proffered at an early stage. Instead, it was allowed to become a public relations disaster. D&G did not seem to be aware of the sensitivity until Wednesday, with an apology issued at 2.53am. Not surprisingly, some still find it insincere and insufficient. The Equal Opportunities Commission has now weighed into the row. The police have also launched an investigation after a security guard reportedly threatened to smash a press photographer's camera. Things have got out of hand. Hopefully, now that the apology has been given, emotions will be calmed. But the affair tells us something about Hong Kong people's feelings. Concerns about the wealth gap have made luxury brands a target, while the growing influence of wealthy mainland tourists has increased sensitivity towards any perceived discrimination against Hong Kong people.

There is a need for tolerance and understanding. But luxury brands enjoying the custom of mainland tourists - as well as that of local people - must be sensitive to these issues and act in a way which ensures they do not escalate.