A look back at some of the biggest fashion controversies of 2018

This past year has been one for the fashion history books, from sustainability and inclusivity taking a bigger role to record-breaking sales of fanny packs (seriously!).

But 2018 was also rife with drama — and not of the drop-dead-gorgeous red carpet variety. Some designers and major industry players were slapped with lawsuits, drawn into the #MeToo movement, and accused of being insensitive and racist.

Photos: Getty

From Dolce & Gabbana’s runway disaster in Shanghai to Serena Williams’ catsuit controversy.

Before sliding into 2019, Yahoo Lifestyle US takes a quick look back at some of the year’s biggest stories, and what’s happened since.

Dolce & Gabbana’s promotional videos were under fire for mocking Chinese culture. (Photo: Getty Images)

Dolce & Gabbana’s runway fiasco

Dolce & Gabbana had plans to honour their Chinese customers with “The Great Show,” a runway spectacular planned to take place in Shanghai on Nov. 21. But the fashionable affair got off to a troubled start after the brand released three promotional videos featuring a female model attempting to eat traditional Italian food — including pizza and a large cannoli — with chopsticks.

Each of the 40-second clips was rife with racist and sexist undertones, even featuring a male narrator who appeared to be mocking Chinese culture. To make matters worse, Stefano Gabbana, one half of the Italian design duo, was caught defending the video on Instagram with even more racist and derogatory statements, all of which was discovered and shared by industry watchdog @Diet_Prada.

Dolce & Gabbana’s official account and Gabbana’s personal account both issued apologies on the night of the event, in which both claimed that the offensive messages were a result of hacking. “We have nothing but respect for China and the people of China,” the official apology said.

But the damage was already done: Models began pulling out of the show, celebrities announced their intentions to boycott the brand, and the whole fiasco became a trending topic on China’s Twitter-esque social media site, Weibo. Just hours before the show was supposed to go on, Dolce & Gabbana announced that they would be canceling the event for good. The backlash didn’t end there: some retailers decided to stop selling products from the brand.

Some are wondering why the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show doesn’t celebrate all types of bodies. (Photo: Getty Images)

Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show falls out of fashion

In the lead-up to the taping of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in November, the sultry lingerie brand was already under fire for its lack of inclusivity in terms of casting and its product offerings.

With plus-size and curve models appearing on runways across New York, London, Milan and Paris, plus plenty of high-fashion brands expanding their size offerings, why wasn’t VS following suit? And why wasn’t it celebrating all types of bodies, rather than offering a standing ovation for the slim and hyper-fit physiques of its coven of approved models?

This is a question that Vogue’s Nicole Phelps posed to the chief marketing officer of L Brands, Ed Razek, and the executive vice president of public relations at VS, Monica Mitro, in an interview. The executive’s answers caused even more of an uproar.

“Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is,” Razek said. He also offered up a handful of dismissive comments regarding the #MeToo movement and various Victoria’s Secret competitors.

Amid reports that sales at Victoria’s Secret were slipping and that the brand was losing market share to competitors — plus the increasing outrage after the recent fashion show — the brand’s CEO, Jan Singer, resigned. Even that departure was criticised, as her exit appeared to show that a female executive was taking the flak for unsavoury comments made by her male colleague.

The debacle continued to play out in opinion pieces splashed across the internet, each with a more insulting headline, from the New York Times’ “Victoria’s Secret? In 2018, Fewer Women Want to Hear It” to the Washington Post’s The Victoria’s Secret fashion show is too boring to even argue about.”

Melania Trump’s jacket was viewed as a cold message to convey while on her way to visit migrant children who were being held at the Texas-Mexico border. (Photo: Getty Images)

Melania Trump’s “I really don’t care” jacket 

First lady Melania Trump is usually poised and polished for official visits, often selecting outfits from top designers such as Ralph Lauren and Valentino that cost upwards of four figures. So when she set off to visit migrant children who were being held at the Texas-Mexico border on June 21, her $39 Zara jacket made headlines. And not just for its affordable price tag.

Her strategic sartorial choice became clear when the first lady boarded Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. The back of her army-green jacket clearly read: “I really don’t care, do u?” It was a bizarre and icy message to convey while visiting children who were being detained separately from their parents due to President Trump’s zero-tolerance stance on immigration.

In a statement, the first lady’s communications director, Stephanie Grisham, tried to minimise the outcry, saying, “It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message.” President Trump negated that by issuing his own statement on the uproar, tweeting, “‘I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?’ written on the back of Melania’s jacket, refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!”

Months later, in October 2018, the first lady explained her jacket choice to ABC’s Tom Llamas. It’s obvious I didn’t wear the jacket for the children,” she said. “I wore the jacket to go on the plane and off the plane. And it was for the people and for the left-wing media who are criticising me. And I want to show them that I don’t care.”

Serena Williams, who has a history of blood clots, wore a catsuit at the French Open to help with her circulation. (Photo: Getty Images)

French Open bans Serena Williams’s catsuit 

Along with being recognised as a talented athlete, Serena Williams is also known for her keen fashion taste both on and off the court. But that doesn’t mean the 23-time Grand Slam singles winner is immune to tennis’s notoriously strict rules.

At the French Open in August 2018, Williams stepped out to play in a sleek black catsuit that was designed specifically for her by Nike. The black one-piece served to help with her circulation, as the new mother has a history of suffering from blood clots, particularly following the birth of her daughter, Olympia, in September 2017.

Regardless, her catsuit prompted French Tennis Federation President Bernard Giudicelli to claim that a new dress code would be implemented next year. “I think we sometimes went too far. The combination of Serena this year, for example, it will no longer be accepted. You have to respect the game and the place,” he told Tennis magazine in an interview. The controlling decision drew ire on social media, with former tennis stars including Billie Jean King, Andy Roddick and Chris Evert weighing in on the statement.

Williams, meanwhile, seemed to be unfazed by the whole thing. “I think that obviously the Grand Slams have a right to do what they want to do,” she said after the announcement, adding that she and her team have a great relationship with Giudicelli.

The apparently racist design was met with widespread outrage across social media. (Photo: Getty Images)

H&M ad sparks claims of racism

Swedish label H&M started off the year on a sour note when it posted an image of a young black child modeling a sweatshirt that read “Coolest monkey in the jungle” across the chest. The design was met with widespread outrage across social media and caused a handful of celebrities to sever business relationships with the brand, including the Weeknd and G-Eazy.

H&M issued a public apology on Jan. 9, just days after the outrage began, which it posted at the top of its webpage for all of its customers to see. “We are deeply sorry that the picture was taken, and we also regret the actual print,” the company said in a statement. “Therefore, we have not only removed the image from our channels, but also the garment from our product offering globally.”

The brand also hired a diversity leader in order to increase awareness around blatant insensitivities and in an attempt to avoid making a similar mistake in the future. However, H&M still had to close select stores in South Africa just four days after its public apology, as angry mobs swarmed the shops in protest.

As for the unsold sweatshirts? Those were reportedly “recycled” by the H&M team.

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