Instagram fashion watchdog Diet Prada pushes back on Dolce & Gabbana defamation lawsuit
- Instagram account Diet Prada, known for calling out fashion brands, is being sued by Dolce & Gabbana.
- On Thursday, Diet Prada issued its first public response to the defamation lawsuit.
- A lawyer representing Diet Prada said "the case would be laughed out of court" in the US.
Diet Prada, an Instagram account known for calling out fashion brands, is pushing back on a 2019 defamation lawsuit from Italian fashion brand Dolce & Gabbana filed in an Italian civil court.
The account, run by Tony Liu and Lindsey Schuyler, announced in a Thursday Instagram post that they answered the defamation suit with "a defense of our freedom of speech" ahead of their deadline to respond to the court.
Dolce & Gabbana's defamation suit accuses the Instagram page's owners of causing a loss in revenue after it published a critical post about the brand.
In 2018, Diet Prada criticized Dolce & Gabbana, saying the company featured a "stereotypical and sexist depiction of a Chinese woman" in a controversial advertising campaign at the time. The account also shared what was purportedly a screenshot of a direct message from Stefano Gabbana's account that included anti-Asian remarks.
The brand's advertising campaign was met with international outrage at the time, leading to the hashtag #boycottdolce to trend on social media. According to NPR, the company's brand ambassador in China cut ties with the company after the incident. The brand's founders, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, later issued an apology.
Dolce & Gabbana's 2019 defamation suit requests €3 million in damages (over $3.5 million USD at today's conversion rates) for the company and another €1 million (around $1.2 million USD) for Gabbana.
"This lawsuit is outrageous, on a number of levels," Susan Scafidi, the founder and director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School who is defending Liu and Schuyler through the program's pro bono clinic, told Insider. "Ethically, how does a company publicly apologize, then quietly turn around and bring a lawsuit?"
In Italy, defamation laws can include consideration of tone and public interest, on top of whether or not what was said was true, Scafidi said.
In the caption of Diet Prada's Thursday post, the page highlighted the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes in the US. "With so much anti-Asian hate spreading in the U.S., it feels wrong to continue to remain silent about a lawsuit that threatens our freedom of speech," the caption said. "We are a small company co-founded by a person of color, trying to speak out against racism in our own community."
The defense team, which also includes an Italy-based firm, argued in court filings that the account was just covering the news and was just using a "colorful and deliberately provocative" tone.
Scafidi said that in the US, the case "would not just be dismissed from court, it would be laughed out of court."
She continued, "in the US, truth is an absolute defense to defamation and there is very wide protection for expressing opinion, particularly around public figures."
Diet Prada created a GoFundMe page with a goal of $26,000 to pay for the legal fees. As of Thursday afternoon, the fundraiser has raised over $8,500.
Scafidi told Insider that a hearing is scheduled for May, but cautioned the case could be settled out of court before then.
Representatives for Dolce & Gabbana did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
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