Spanish fashion retail chain Zara has landed in hot water in China, one of the world’s most lucrative fashion markets.
The fast fashion brand had on Monday (September 2) been accused by Chinese media for allegedly supporting Hong Kong’s protests. In particular, the Global Times – a newspaper affiliated with Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily – reported that it closed some of its stores in the city for one day.
In a strongly-worded article, the Global Times said Zara had closed the stores on the same day that tens of thousands of Hong Kong’s anti-extradition student protesters went on strike by skipping classes on the first day of school.
“Why did some Zara stores in Hong Kong close for a day at such a sensitive time? There are reasons to question this. Zara has not taken active steps to eliminate this doubt quickly,” the article said.
It added: “One cannot help but conclude that the management of Zara Hong Kong, or at least some of its stores, is willing to echo the three strikes. They are even willing to make a special show of it. They probably think that some of the risk is worth it.”
The Global Times also demanded a “solemn explanation” from the Inditex-owned fashion house, before ending with a warning that “Zara should not make serious misjudgments”.
News of Zara’s selected store closures appeared to anger Chinese netizens, who called for a boycott of the brand.
In response, Zara said on Monday night that it supported the “one country, two systems” policy in Hong Kong, adding that it “has never supported the strikes”.
However, Chinese netizens seemed unimpressed with Zara’s statement, pointing out that the brand still had not explained why only some of its stores were closed on the day of the student strikes.
“They should remain shut, not come out with statement. It’s exhausting. Just shut down and it will be easier,” one Weibo user said.
Another said: “(Zara) copies the designs of the first class, but has second class workmanship and third class quality.”
“They want to earn Chinese money but don’t support China. No point buying such a brand,” one consumer added.
One Weibo user referenced recent controversies surrounding other brands that were seen as supportive of the protests by writing: “Thanks to Hong Kong’s mess, we can save lots of money. No need to drink (Hong Kong) milk tea, and no need to buy so and so brands. How awesome.”