So about a week ago, the news surfaced that German-born Swiss-based couturier Phillipp Plein released a limited edition T-shirt that screamed “F-U-C-K YOU CHINA”. OK, it was more like a whisper – the words were only readable up close and as we all know, couturiers are all about subtle elegance.
We didn’t think too much about it but boy did it create a massive furore on the Chinese internet (see here and here). Someone else decided to declare their undying love for the brand at Fuck-You-Philipp-Plein.net, and in three languages no less – English, Chinese and German.
Also check out the wonderfully thought-out letter written by Philipp Plein’s PR guys in response to a customer complaint:
The PHILIPP PLEIN Int. AG company would like to explain what lies behind this abbreviation and give the following statement: f.u.c.k.u.china stands for “the fascinating & urban collection: kiss you China”.
We would like to specify that we never intended to hurt or offend the citizens of China .
On the contrary, with this collection we wanted to thank China because it gives us the possibility to produce some articles of our collection on a competitive price basis. In addition, the man craft we found in China is very precise and leads to a good quality of the clothes. This is a great satisfaction for us and for our end customers.
We are a young and dynamic company and this is why we intituled this limited T-shirt edition “fascinating and urban” collection and “kiss” is a way to thank the Chinese savoir-faire.
Ooooh… fascinating & urban collection: kiss you China eh? Chinese savoir-faire eh? Philipp Plein would have to work a lot harder to sound more convincing. We suggest they first fire their public relations guys.
The hullaballoo also inspired eminent Shanghai Daily columnist Wu Jiayin to put pen to paper and to proclaim in his column that the T-shirt was “greatly hurting the feelings of the Chinese people” – yes all 1.4 billion of them. Philipp Plein has since clarified that only 100 items of the offending t-shirt were produced (they were made in China if we understood their letter above correctly!), and that the product has now been withdrawn from the market. Unfortunately though, one of those 100 t-shirts was found on the back of a German student in Shanghai. We wonder if they will banish him next.
Update: Looks like the T-shirt saga has reached the higher echelons of power! Wang Xinpei, a spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Commerce, has announced that Philipp Plein and KULT, a store in Bremen, Germany, have both apologised for the “production and sale of T-shirts which carry insulting words toward Chinese people”. The Chinese Embassy in Germany has also “demanded the companies stop production and apologize to Chinese people”.
Image from CSR-Asia.