French luxury giant Dior has taken down a controversial photograph that had been criticized in China for “smearing Asian women” by pandering to Western stereotypes while “distorting Chinese culture.”
The photo, which was part of the brand’s ‘Lady Dior’ exhibition in Shanghai, depicts an Asian model wearing a traditional dress and clutching a Dior handbag. It came under fire this week from Chinese media outlets for featuring “spooky eyes, [a] gloomy face and Qing Dynasty-styled nail armor.”
Although Dior has not released a statement regarding the controversy, it confirmed to fashion trade publication Business of Fashion that the photo had been removed from the exhibition. The brand has also reportedly taken the photo off Chinese social media platform Weibo.
The image, which was shot by Chinese photographer Chen Man, had drawn both media ire and public outrage. However, there were apparently no calls for a boycott of the brand.
In an editorial on Monday titled “Is This the Asian Woman in Dior’s Eyes?”, the Beijing Daily paper had noted that the image makes Chinese consumers uncomfortable. The publication criticized Man for “playing up to the brands, or the aesthetic tastes of the Western world.”
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.
Warning that both the brand and the photographer had “gone too far,” the China Women’s News paper ran an editorial on Wednesday that claimed it “indicated their intention of uglifying Chinese women and distorting Chinese culture.”
“Again, from… Dior’s ghost-style picture, which makes the public feel uncomfortable, it’s easy to see some Western brands’ ‘pride and prejudice’ in their aesthetics and culture,” said the newspaper, which is run by the All-China Women’s Federation.
Meanwhile, the Global Times noted that the “lingering controversy could pose a delicate situation” for Dior and other global brands – for whom China’s “massive” luxury market was one of the biggest sources of revenue. The paper said that the Chinese public had become “increasingly sensitive” toward the depiction and treatment of Chinese people and culture by foreign companies.
While pointing out that Chinese social media users had demanded the company and photographer explain their intention, a number of media outlets also highlighted how some netizens had praised the photo as a departure from typical standards of beauty in the country, often characterized by “fair skin and large eyes.”
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