The French luxury fashion house Christian Dior removed a photo of a Chinese model holding one of its handbags from a Shanghai art exhibit on Thursday, just two days after Chinese state media outlets published articles online criticizing the image as “smearing Asian women.”
Chen Man, a well-known Chinese photographer, shot the image in question, featured in a “Lady Dior” fashion exhibition that opened at Shanghai’s West Bund Art Center on November 12.
French fashion brand #Dior continued to face a lingering controversy on Chinese social media over a recent photo accused of smearing the image of #Chinese women, with some Chinese netizens demanding an explanation from @Dior as well as the photographer. https://t.co/N7KEiXVSEp pic.twitter.com/0w05fnmF3B
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) November 17, 2021
The Chinese state-owned Beijing Daily published an editorial criticizing the photo on November 15 with the headline, “Is This the Asian Woman in Dior’s Eyes?”
The op-ed claimed the image “makes Chinese consumers feel uncomfortable” because it depicts its subject as having “spooky eyes, [a] gloomy face, and Qing Dynasty-styled nail armour.”
“The photographer is playing up to the brands, or the aesthetic tastes of the Western world,” Beijing Daily argued. “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.”
China’s state-run Global Times similarly accused Dior of “sucking up to the Western world” in its own article addressing the controversial image on November 16. The newspaper cited an alleged intra-Chinese dialogue that picked the image apart online. Users of Chinese state-controlled social media outlets, such as Weibo and Douban, allegedly claimed Dior’s depiction of a Chinese woman in the photo represented “deliberate sweet talk for Western stereotypes about Chinese people.”
The Global Times published a separate article on November 18 complaining that Dior’s image “shows a model with single eyelids and dark skin dressed in traditional Chinese clothing.” The newspaper, published by China’s ruling Communist Party, seemed to imply that Dior had angered Chinese consumers by highlighting the beauty of a Chinese woman with darker skin and narrow eyes. This depiction defies a traditional norm of Western brands supporting “typical standards of beauty in China, which are often characterized by fair skin and large eyes,” the Global Times claimed.
“When it comes to city publicity or brand promotion in the European market, photos usually go with an image of calmness, elegance and nobility,” the newspaper quoted an alleged “Chinese netizen” as writing online on November 16.
“So why do we have to use the image of ordinary people, even one with ugly makeup on, when it comes to Chinese models?” the unnamed social media user allegedly wrote.
Dior pulled the photo from both the Shanghai art exhibit and its online social media accounts on November 18 following the wave of online criticism by Chinese Communist Party-run news outlets.
Chen Man, the Chinese photographer who shot the controversial photo, operates the Beijing-based Studio 6, which has “produced advertising campaigns for Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Adidas, Converse, Puma, Budweiser, Maybelline, Guess and more,” according to the South China Morning Post.