The intersection between geopolitics and sports is eternal, but that of geopolitics and fashion/ clothing/ beauty brands in particular, has become an area of increasing note in recent years, making its way from the sidelines to centre stage.
Traditionally, it has been about labour and supply side matters, with a long history of boycotts and legal action in the fashion and sporting goods arena, but gathering momentum in the last half decade or so has been the matter of brand partnerships – ‘brand ambassadors’, ‘friends of the brand’, and how global, including luxury, brands, have responded to everything from accusations of cultural misappropriation or insensitivity in designs, to their position on geopolitical matters.
It was only a matter of time before a major watch brand found itself in the position of having navigate these waters and to issue a political statement.
Chinese actor and singer Lu Han has cut ties with Audemars Piguet because of a reference made by CEO François-Henry Bennahmias a number of months ago, during a speech made to university students in Taiwan, of Taiwan being a “very tech-oriented country”.
Reported by the South China Morning Post (which is paywalled, but it is covered here), a statement was placed on Sina Weibo saying Lu was terminating his “co-operation relationship” with the luxury label.
“National interests are above all else. Mr Lu Han and Lu Han Studio will resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
In response, Audemars Piguet posted a reply on Weibo:
“We apologise for the recent misrepresentation. Audemars Piguet always adheres to the ‘one China’ position and firmly upholds China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
The article reports that Lu’s studio stated that they had asked Audemars Piguet to issue apologies in both Chinese and English on multiple platforms, but that a failure to come to mutually agreeable terms had lead to the decision to cut ties with the brand.