A while after Dolce & Gabbana’s show in Shanghai was called off amid backlash in China over the Italian brand’s ad campaign videos posted on Weibo, Diet Prada’s founders say they are fighting back against a defamation suit that the Italian brand had filed against them in the wake of the furor.
On Thursday, Diet Prada’s cofounders Tony Liu and Lindsey Schuyler said they have filed a response to a lawsuit that Dolce & Gabbana had filed against them in 2019 in a Milan civil trial court. The Italian brand’s suit against them had sought 4 million euros in damages for “lost revenues and harm to the brand,” according to a statement by the defendants.
The legal dispute followed the widely reported last-minute cancellation of Dolce & Gabbana’s Shanghai runway show in 2018, after advertisements by the Italian brand, titled “eating with chopsticks,” which portrayed an Asian model being instructed on how to eat foods like pizza, canoli and spaghetti. In addition, messages disparaging China, apparently from the Instagram account of designer Stefano Gabbana, surfaced around the time. The Diet Prada Instagram account had called out the ad campaign and the messages from Gabbana, which Gabbana and the company had said were the result of his account being hacked.
“As an Asian American, I’m part of a community that is often misrepresented. Like many people of color in the United States, there’s pain that stems from seeing ourselves depicted through inaccurate, harmful stereotypes,” Liu wrote in the statement.
A representative for Dolce & Gabbana couldn’t be reached for comment on Thursday. Liu and Schuyler are being represented by the Fashion Law Institute, part of the Fordham Law School, as well as local counsel in Italy, according to their statement.
“Since our founding in 2010, a key part of the Fashion Law Institute’s mission has been to provide pro bono legal assistance to industry professionals — in this case, individuals working to hold the fashion industry to high ethical standards, to defend the right to freedom of speech, and to promote diversity, equity and inclusion by criticizing anti-Asian caricatures,” Prof. Susan Scafidi, founder and director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham, said in a statement.
It’s not clear what the next steps of the case are — such disputes could settle, as is often the goal of parties that often seek to avert protracted litigation. But a settlement in the case hasn’t transpired so far. The court could weigh the defendants’ response, and decide how the claims should proceed.