Fashion faux pas: #BoycottDolceGabbana and the art of crisis management PR

It’s the latest scandal involving fashion, celebrities, babies and LGBT – which, in short, makes it media gold.

Over the past few days, we have seen the rapid response to Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana’s (D&G) comments that in vitro fertilization (IVF) is “unnatural” and produces “synthetic children”.

The comments, made in an interview with Panorama magazine, have raised a furore among the press and the entertainment industry. Media commentary has lambasted their shortsightedness, while celebrities have initiated a boycott of the designer brand.

This boycott was led by no other than Elton John, thanks to a spat on Twitter, which generated the trending#BoycottDolceGabbana hashtag. It has since received support from a league of celebrities, including Madonna, Courtney Love and the Beckhams.



It’s a dramatic turn of events, which provides an interesting and essential case study for some pointers in crisis management.

It’s not clear if there were broader motives behind D&G’s comments, but chances are they were off-the-cuff remarks made without the foresight to see how it would affect their brand identity.

From a PR perspective, there are numerous lessons you can learn about avoiding potential media nightmares – and how to react once the damage has been done.

There’s no such thing as “off the record”

It’s a game of trust. During interviews, you always have to be prepared before speaking with the media. One would have expected D&G to be aware of this after years in the spotlight, but goes to show that even media moguls can forget, and fall prey to the obvious rules.

Always err on the side of caution and be aware that anything you say can, and will, be held against you.

Don’t fight fire with fire

After Elton John led the boycott, D&G decided to go on the offense on Instagram with #boycotteltonjohn.

Although their efforts to make a point about free speech received considerable support from punters, their response was unnecessary. It is easy to forget the virality of social media, and these public spats only provide an opportunity to spawn more undesirable news.

A wise man once said, “An eye for an eye makes the world go blind”, and it is always good to be the bigger person, take a step back to assess the situation and see the best way to go about handling it with integrity.

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

If you do something that upsets millions of people, the right way to respond is to say sorry. A response carefully crafted to at least include the word “sorry” or “apology” isn’t difficult, and a quick turnaround can do wonders to backtrack on a flippant mistake.

Instead, D&G sat down for an interview with CNN, in which Dolce defended his comments and made it clear that they were his personal beliefs.

“It is impossible to change my culture for something different. It is me… I respect all the world, all the culture,” he said.

He went on to say he “loves the music of Elton John”, and that while his views were private, they could have definitely expressed their views better.

While D&G came across as very frank and honest in the interview, there was no apology. Sticking to your guns is one thing, but not acknowledging and expressing remorse at the damage their comments may have inflicted is an oversight.

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