Chinese netizens call for boycott of Balenciaga after Paris shopping mall scuffle
After a Chinese customer was roughly subdued, net users are calling the French luxury brand racist and demanding an apology
French luxury fashion brand Balenciaga has become the latest foreign company to face the wrath of China’s netizens following a scuffle at a high-end shopping mall in Paris that has set the Chinese internet aflame.
In a short video clip, a Chinese shopper is seen being roughly subdued by security guards. The clip was filmed at a Balenciaga outlet in a Printemps department store in Paris. Since being uploaded on Tuesday, it has gone viral, becoming the hottest issue on Chinese social media and creating some serious problems for the French fashion company.
While no official statement has yet been given describing the circumstances surrounding this incident, Jing Daily provides a translation of the WeChat post where the video first appeared, which provides a version of the events:
I am trembling with anger. Chinese people living abroad are always in the minority. I line up to buy Balenciaga’s Triple S sneakers every day and French-Albanians cut in front of me every day, but I can do nothing. Today, an old Chinese lady called out five Albanians who attempted to cut the queue. One of them pushed her away and threatened to beat her. Then, the lady’s son came to protect his mom and was beaten by them. A French security guard also came to stop the fighting, but only handled that Chinese guy. The chaos led to the cancellation of the sales event. It was really upsetting to see that those Albanians got the shoes, while Balenciaga humiliated Chinese customers who lined up in the store. They asked us to leave and never come back to buy their shoes.
In the wake of the incident, the hashtag “Boycott Balenciaga for discriminating against Chinese people” became the top trending topic on Weibo. As of Friday afternoon, it had more than 24 million views.
Meanwhile, Balenciaga’s official Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook accounts have been bombarded by Chinese netizens with countless numbers of comments, calling the company racist, demanding that they apologize, and vowing to never shop at a Balenciaga outlet again.
Here’s just a small sampling of some of the comments:
“I’ll never buy clothes of yours, shame on you.”
“ When you lost Chinese market, you’ll know how to treat Chinese. Lossers Français éhonté.”
“ Not even one reason comes to mind that I should buy things from the ones who discriminate me. Shame on you!”
“Can’t image how many money you will lose after you offended Chinese people.”
“ Chinese are not your ATM to withdraw money and do whatever you want. Apologize for being racism and get out of China.”
An issue that seems to have got lost somewhere in all of this vitriol is that it’s not clear that the security guards were Balenciaga employees. It seems more likely that they were instead hired by the department store itself.
Regardless, on Thursday evening, Balenciaga released a short statement on its social media accounts about the incident:
The house of Balenciaga regrets the incident that took place yesterday morning at a department store in Paris while customers were waiting to enter its corner shop. The security staff acted immediately to restore the calm. Balenciaga sincerely apologizes to the customers who were present and reaffirms its strong commitment to respect equally all its customers.
As might expect, Chinese netizens weren’t terribly happy with this statement, claiming that it doesn’t come close to the full apology that is needed:
As Chinese netizens note, Balenciaga is a foreign luxury brand that relies heavily on China. Not only are many of its products made in the Middle Kingdom, but the company has also cited increased luxury spending among wealthy Chinese as one of the main reasons for its recent 49% year-on-year growth, according to Jing Daily.
Balenciaga joins an already lengthy list of foreign companies to have paid the price this year for hurting Chinese feelings. In recent months, global brands and organizations from Marriott to Mercedes-Benz to even London’s Heathrow Airport have all been forced to issue public apologies after inadvertently unleashing the unrelenting anger of Chinese consumers in one way or another.