Diet Prada files "defence of free speech" response against Dolce & Gabbana that has been seeking millions in damages in a defamation lawsuit over the fashion watchdog group's coverage of #DGLovesChina marketing campaign in 2018.

People wearing face masks walk past a Dolce & Gabbana store at a shopping mall in Wuhan, Hubei province on March 30, 2020.
People wearing face masks walk past a Dolce & Gabbana store at a shopping mall in Wuhan, Hubei province on March 30, 2020. (Reuters)

Popular fashion commentary account on Instagram, Diet Prada, has filed a "defence of free speech" in response to a 2019 defamation lawsuit by Dolce & Gabbana in a Milan court.

In a statement posted on their account on Thursday, Diet Prada said Dolce & Gabbana was seeking damages for "serious and repeated defamatory conduct" from Diet Prada's coverage of the brand's #DGLovesChina marketing campaign in 2018.

"With so much anti-Asian hate spreading in the US, it feels wrong to continue to remain silent about a lawsuit that threatens our freedom of speech. We are a small company co-founded by a person of colour, trying to speak out against racism in our own community," Diet Prada said in its statement.

Dolce & Gabbana filed an action for defamation in 2019, demanding damages in the amount of $3.59 million for the company and $1.20 million for co-founder Stefano Gabbana from Diet Prada.

The fashion account is run by Tony Liu and Lindsey Schuyler and currently has 2.5 million followers. It seeks to "denounce racism, amplify stories from the larger BIPOC community, and hold the fashion industry to a higher ethical standard."

Controversial campaign

In 2018 Dolce & Gabbana received online backlash after its #DGLovesChina campaign video sparked criticism for its portrayal of Chinese women.

The video series features a Chinese model struggling to eat various Italian dishes with chopsticks. 

Diet Prada condemned the campaign, sharing one video involving a cannoli, which the male narrator asks the model in Mandarin, "is it too huge for you?"

The account also published Instagram DMs that appeared to be from Gabbana calling his office "as stupid as the superiority of China" and referring to the country with the poop emoji.

This prompted further outrage as Chinese stores pulled their products and Shanghai government officials cancelled the brand's show just hours before it was to take place.

Dolce & Gabbana claimed their account had been hacked and its two founders, Gabbana and Domenico Dolce, released a joint apology video for the incident.

Freedom of speech

Liu and Schuyler said they will be represented pro bono by the Fashion Law Institute alongside Italian lawfirm AMSL Avvocati.

Fashion Law Institute Founder Susan Scafidi told Fashionista that Dolce & Gabbana should have filed the lawsuit in the US not Italy, noting the differences in the country's legal systems in regards to freedom of speech.

"In the US, truth is an absolute defence to defamation. In Italy, truth is of course a key factor in a defence, but the law also takes into account things like tone and whether the statements are in the public interest," Scafidi told Fashionista.

"The plaintiffs engaged in forum shopping and perhaps hope for home court advantage as well. Like the U.S., however, Italy protects freedom of speech, and the fight against racism is important to people everywhere," Scafidi added.

'Stereotypes laid bare'

Diet Prada's defence comes as the US Justice Department announced it would investigate the rising tide of hate crimes towards Asian-Americans in America.

From March of 2020 to December of last year, there were more than 2,800 reported incidents of anti-Asian hate incidents in the United States, according to Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition that has been collecting data.

While verbal harassment has made up more than 70 percent of the incidents, more than 8 percent involved physical assaults.

In one such example, a surveillance video that has since gone viral showed a 91-year-old Asian man in Oakland, California, being shoved to the ground on Jan.

Asian-American co-founder of Diet Prada, Liu, said he "cultivated Diet Prada as a platform where stereotypes are laid bare and stories from the larger BIPOC community are brought to the fore" in a statement to Fashionista.

Co-founder Schuyler also expressed her discomfort to the news outlet "not only as an ally to the Asian community, but as a woman who was offended by the misogynistic tone of Dolce & Gabbana's messaging," Fashionista reports.

 "Now is the time for public figures and brands to respond to public opinion and media critiques with progressive action, not lawsuits," Schuyler told Fashionista.

Source: TRT World