Gucci has apologised after warning Hong Kong’s funeral shops not to sell paper fakes of its products to be burned as tributes to the dead.
Burning paper replicas of everything a loved one could want in the afterlife is an enduring tradition in Hong Kong, from mundane daily items, including pairs of socks and false teeth, to high-end status symbols such as cars, smartphones and designer handbags.
The luxury fashion brand sent letters to shop owners last month asking them not to sell paper replicas bearing Gucci-like logos, saying it was an infringement of their trademark. That led to criticism from shops and customers, who said Gucci was interfering in an age-old custom they felt was harmless.
“We regret any misunderstandings that may have been caused and sincerely apologise to anyone we may have offended through our action,” Gucci said.
The company, which has opened 11 stores since its arrival in Hong Kong in 1974, said the letters were sent as part of efforts to protect its global intellectual property and said it held the funeral traditions “in utmost respect”.
“We trust that the funeral store owners did not have the intention to infringe Gucci’s trademark. Accordingly, we did not suggest any legal action or compensation,” the statement added.
It did not say whether Gucci would continue to ask shops to take replicas off the shelves, but according to a source most of the six stores that received the letters had agreed to stop selling the products.
“We hope to continue a positive dialogue with the sellers,” the source added.
Though some store owners may have acted upon the warning, others seemed unfazed. “These items are not used by living people, it’s just to commemorate ancestors and for them to use,” To Chin-sung, manager of a shop crammed with paper offerings, told AFP after the letters had been sent.
He had not received one himself, although he does sell paper handbags resembling Gucci products. “If they send us a letter, we’ll respond jokingly by saying perhaps we can help send it to the underworld, and see how it’s received there,” he added.