Blog: Leonie BarrieVersace can't hide from Facebook

Leonie Barrie | 21 July 2011

A presence on Facebook and Twitter is almost obligatory for today's fashion brands, with social networking sites like these providing an opportunity to connect with consumers like never before. After all, when shoppers share information about brands, new products they've just bought, and their experiences, it comes from a friend rather than a corporation - giving it a completely different level of credibility.
But engaging with customers and allowing them to voice their opinions publicly has its downsides too. Earlier this month Italian fashion brand Versace took the decision to not only turn off its Facebook wall to stop fans making posts, but also scrubbed existing comments, after it was swamped by hundreds of protestors in Europe and America demanding an end to the use of sandblasting on its jeans.

Shoppers had been stirred into action by a group of activists led by the Clean Clothes Campaign. But instead of responding to calls to end a dangerous production technique, it seemed that Versace simply decided to try and silence the critics. The subsequent uproar, of course, was louder than the initial campaign itself, and damaged Versace's image as a responsible, socially engaged vendor.

The company has now been forced to backtrack, and today said it was banning sandblasting after the comments on its Facebook page had made the company re-think its stance on the process. A victory for the power of the Internet, but a salutary warning as well for brands who try to abuse it.


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