HONG KONG – A Chinese fashion photographer has apologized after a backlash over the work she did for French luxury brand Dior.
Pictured here is a tan, freckled model of Asian descent dressed in traditional Chinese clothing while carrying a black Lady Dior bag. It has been criticized for perpetuating Western stereotypes of East Asian faces and for failing to represent the region’s beauty standards, which typically favor fair skin and large eyes.
The image has been removed from display at the Dior Fashion Show in Shanghai in the wake of the controversy.
Chen Man admitted to criticizing the photo as well as some of her previous work.
“I thought deeply and blamed myself for my naivety and ignorance at the time. Addressing her social media followers earlier this week, Chen said, I think I still have to formally apologize to everyone.
“I am a Chinese born and raised and I deeply love our country,” she added in the post, prompting reactions from thousands of users. “
“I know that as an artist, I have the responsibility of documenting and presenting Chinese culture through my work. I will study more history and attend more related events to strengthen my ideologies.”
Her apology came after heavy criticism from some netizens on Weibo, a social media platform in China similar to Twitter.
Many users expressed outrage at what they saw as a high-profile visual representation of Chinese women who had adopted beauty standards for a different culture.
“Why do you want to maliciously denigrate and denigrate China?” said one user, referring to the view that the Western lens promotes a traditional view of Chinese women that differs from local perceptions of beauty, because the fashion circle is dominated by Westerners.
Chen, the photographer, is highly regarded.
In 2019, the Global Times, an English-language newspaper published by the Communist Party, called it China’s response to American photographer Annie Leibovitz, calling her a “shining star” with a unique perspective.
But she’s also no stranger to controversy. She previously made headlines in 2012, when social media users reciprocated her depiction of various ethnic Chinese minorities for British fashion magazine iD.
China offers a huge market for luxury brands and could become the largest market for luxury products in the world by 2025, according to some estimates. But, despite being profitable, it also presents challenges for Western companies.
Dior emphasized that Chen’s portrayal was part of the company’s art project and “not a Dior commercial.”
“Dior has always respected the feelings of the Chinese people while strictly adhering to Chinese law and regulations,” the French brand said in a statement on its Chinese social media account on Wednesday. “If any errors occur, we will receive feedback and take immediate action to correct them,” she said. ‘Dior is unwaveringly loyal to Chinese consumers and society.’
NBC News has reached out to Dior for comment.
It’s not the first time Dior has been in the hot seat with regards to China.
In 2019, an employee at a company recruitment event used a map of the country that did not include Taiwan. China considers the autonomous island part of its territory, but Taiwan has rejected this idea on numerous occasions.
Dior is not the only western brand facing such problems. Earlier this year, several fashion companies including H&M, Nike and Burberry faced backlash on social media and even a boycott over their stance on cotton produced in Xinjiang, home to the country’s Muslim Uyghur minority.
Meanwhile, in 2018, Dolce & Gabbana sparked outrage with an ad that featured an Asian model ordering Italian food like spaghetti and pizza with a pair of chopsticks. The videos were later removed.
News agency Contributed.