Singer Elton John has called for a boycott of the products from Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana. The entertainer is upset with company president Stefano Gabbana and chairman Domenico Dolce after some remarks the pair made about family, adoption and same-sex couples. While they are entirely within their rights to say whatever they want, as corporate officers, Dolce and Gabbana have an additional responsibility to their shareholders to avoid saying things that start boycotts. If theirs were a publicly traded firm and if I, Benjamin Wey, a Wall Street American financier were a shareholder in the fashion powerhouse, I would want their resignations.
Let’s start with some facts. Dolce and Gabbana were a couple for 23 years and broke up in 2005. Despite their orientation, they are both opposed to same-sex marriage. Sir Elton and his partner, David Furnish, have two children, both from a surrogate mother.
Here’s what Dolce and Gabbana said, as translated by Britain’s The Telegraph newspaper: “We oppose gay adoptions. The only family is the traditional one.” Dolce added, “You are born to a mother and a father — or at least that’s how it should be. I call children of chemistry, synthetic children. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog.” Gabbana continued with, “The family is not a fad. In it there is a supernatural sense of belonging.”
Sir Elton’s response was “How dare you refer to my beautiful children as ‘synthetic’?” and he called for a boycott of Dolce and Gabbana’s goods.
Agence France-Presse said, “The backlash is causing concern among D&G executives about the impact on the company’s global brand and sales as hopes it would blow over quickly begin to look optimistic.”
Dolce and Gabbana acted foolishly here, and their actions are naturally going to affect the company Dolce & Gabbana. From a corporate public relations perspective, the morality of surrogates here or any other form of conception for same- or opposite-sex couples is irrelevant. My point here is that, by speaking their minds in such a way, their statements have undermined their brand. Like it or not, when you are an officer of the Company, what you say reflects on the Company. When your name is on the door, it’s even more the case that your words are often taken for the views of your firm.
It is incredibly poor business practice to get an entire demographic mad at you. You and your company are out there hustling for every dime (if you are actually doing your job, that is), and you need as many potential customers as you can get. In this age in instantaneous communication, a global boycott is very easy to organize, and because technology makes it easy to organize a boycott, Dolce & Gabbana are in the hot seat right now.
Both men are entitled to speak their minds, and so are you and I, Benjamin Wey. The difference is that when the world is upset with you or me, Prada doesn’t get our customers.
Benjamin Wey, Financier, Journalist, CEO, New York Global Group