The Milan fashion house Dolce & Gabbana has filed a defamation suit in an Italian court seeking more than €560m in damages from two US fashion bloggers who reposted comments attributed to one of the designers that led to a boycott by Asian consumers.
The suit was filed in Milan civil court in 2019 but only became public this week when the bloggers, Tony Liu and Lindsey Schuyler, posted about it on their Instagram account, Diet Prada.
Their feed is widely followed in the fashion world for its cutting commentary on unoriginality in designs and on social issues.
Susan Scafidi, director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School, which is coordinating the bloggers’ defence, said: “This whole case is a way of trying to silence Diet Prada, and to silence Tony (Liu) and Lindsey (Schuyler) personally.” Lawyers for Dolce & Gabbana have declined to comment on the case.
The case dates back to November 2018, when Dolce & Gabbana faced a boycott in Asia amid outrage over what were seen as culturally insensitive videos promoting a major runway show in Shanghai and subsequent posts of insulting comments in a private Instagram chat.
The show was cancelled in the backlash, which included retailers pulling Dolce & Gabbana merchandise and Asian VIPs disavowing the brand.
Designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana initially said that Mr Gabbana’s account had been hacked. The two later appeared in a video apologising to the Chinese people.
Ms Scafidi said: “A public apology and a quiet lawsuit really cancel each other out in my mind.” Italian defence attorneys filed a brief this week in Milan civil court, arguing that Italy is not the correct venue for the case, given that the blog is produced in the United States and the alleged incident occurred in Asia.
The fashion house is seeking damages totalling more than half a billion euro, Ms Scafidi said.
She said the fashion house is seeking €450m that has been spent to restore brand image since 2018 and damages of €3m for the company and one million for Mr Gabbana, to whom the remarks were attributed.
The suit also seeks more than €8.6m for the cancellation of the Shanghai show, another €8.6m for staff expenditures and €89.6m for lost Asian sales from November 2018-March 2019.
Since going public, Diet Prada, which has around 2.5 million Instagram followers, has raised more than $38,000 for its defence.
In a statement, Mr Liu and Ms Schuyler both said they would not allow their platform, which has also been vocal about the #MeToo movement, Black Lives Matter and recent attacks on Asians in the United States, to be silenced by lawsuits.
“Diet Prada will continue to be a platform to elevate these crucial issues,” Mr Liu said.
Ms Schuyler called on “public figures and brands to respond to public opinion and media critiques with progressive action, not lawsuits”.