DIET PRADA FOUNDERS FIGHT ANTI-ASIAN RACISM
AND DEFEND FREE SPEECH AGAINST LAWSUIT BY DOLCE & GABBANA
Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Provides Pro Bono Legal Assistance
NEW YORK / MILAN (March 4, 2021)—On Monday Instagrammers Tony Liu and Lindsey Schuyler, the duo behind the company that runs Diet Prada, filed a defense of their freedom of speech in answer to defamation claims brought in a Milan court by Italian luxury brand Dolce & Gabbana. The lawsuit argues that Liu and Schuyler should be held responsible for lost revenue and other harm to the brand and its co-founder Stefano Gabbana after Diet Prada criticized a 2018 Dolce & Gabbana advertising campaign on Weibo for its stereotypical and sexist depiction of a Chinese woman and revealed anti-Asian remarks apparently originating from Gabbana’s Instagram account. The messages, which at the time were rebutted as hackers’ actions, called China the ”country of [five poop emoji]” and its people “ignorant dirty smelling mafia.”
Following the widespread negative response to its advertising campaign and the withdrawal of many Chinese models and guests from a planned fashion show in Shanghai, Dolce & Gabbana canceled the event and issued a public video apology featuring its founders. Shortly thereafter, in early 2019, the brand filed an action for defamation demanding that Liu and Schuyler pay damages in the amount of €3 million for Dolce & Gabbana and €1 million for Stefano Gabbana.
The nonprofit Fashion Law Institute, based at Fordham Law School, is coordinating Liu and Schuyler’s defense through its pro bono clinic in collaboration with Italian law firm AMSL Avvocati.
Statement from Diet Prada co-founder Tony Liu (NEW YORK):
As an Asian-American, I’m part of a community that is often misrepresented. Like many people of color in the United States, there’s pain that stems from seeing ourselves depicted through inaccurate, harmful stereotypes. Often, it leads to racism and violence.
Growing up as a queer person of color in a predominantly white town, I’ve often found myself intimidated and at a loss for words when confronted with racism and bigotry. Having cultivated
Diet Prada as a platform where stereotypes are laid bare and stories from the larger BIPOC community are brought to the fore, is one of the things I’m most proud of.
For two years, I’ve stayed silent and carried the burden of this lawsuit on my shoulders. During this time, the world was forced to reckon with the systemic racism in the U.S. that led to the murder of George Floyd and countless other Black lives, as well as the xenophobia that further fueled Trump’s anti-Asian rhetoric in the age of COVID-19. In the outpouring of support for these communities being targeted, we all continue to see the power of solidarity and speaking truth to power. Diet Prada will continue to be a platform to elevate these crucial issues.
Statement from Diet Prada co-founder Lindsey Schuyler (NEW YORK):
Diet Prada has made a point to be actively anti-racist for years. As an ally to my Asian friends, and the community at large, I was offended not only at the caricatures of China and Chinese people, but also by the misogynistic images associated with them.
As a woman, I believe it is important that media outlets speak out against misogyny as well as racism and are not silenced by legal threats. Discrediting and denouncing the press, charges of “fake news,” and a general threatening attitude towards journalists are a breeding ground for danger and a slippery slope toward extremism.
Now is the time for public figures and brands to respond to public opinion and media critiques with progressive action, not lawsuits.
Statement from Professor Susan Scafidi, Founder & Director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham (NEW YORK):
Since our founding in 2010, a key part of the Fashion Law Institute’s mission has been to provide pro bono legal assistance to industry professionals – in this case, individuals working to hold the fashion industry to high ethical standards, to defend the right to freedom of speech, and to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion by criticizing anti-Asian caricatures.
Italian and U.S. anti-defamation law differ in their specifics, and it is apparent that the plaintiffs engaged in a degree of forum shopping. However, we are confident that Diet Prada is on the right side of both law and history, and we are honored to help them demonstrate that harmful stereotypes are never in style.
Statement from Marco Amorese, AMSL Avvocati (MILAN and BERGAMO, ITALY)
Freedom of speech and criticism are fundamental values of an open society and constitute an important stimulus in the dissemination of a way of doing business that respects the diversity of gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation. The critique of cultural paradigms that are deemed inadequate should promote change and not give rise to judicial actions aimed at silencing it. We are convinced that Italian Courts will know how to protect those civil liberties.
Fashion Law Institute
An unofficial English-language translation of the response filed Monday on behalf of Tony Liu and Lindsey Schuyler, along with the original version in Italian, is available in Dropbox: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/myrny5nvbm70p7w/AAD9sL52dTdmMVVHvg4DxdbZa?dl=0