Last week, Italian luxury fashion designers Dolce & Gabbana managed to offend families everywhere when they criticised IVF, surrogate parenting and gay adoptions in an interview with Italian news magazine Panorama.
"We oppose gay adoptions. The only family is the traditional one," commented Domenico Dolce. "I call children of chemistry, 'synthetic children'. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalogue." Considering the only people who actually buy Dolce & Gabbana these days besides rich, old women are gay men, this was not the smartest of moves.
Cue Elton John posting a photo of the pair of designers – who are both gay themselves, by the way – on Instagram with the caption: "How dare you refer to my beautiful children as 'synthetic'… Your archaic thinking is out of step with the times, just like your fashions. I shall never wear Dolce & Gabbana ever again. #BoycottDolceGabbana".
The internet then went into meltdown, with Victoria Beckham "sending love to all the beautiful babies", Courtney Love claiming she wanted to set fire to a bunch of her D&G gear, and some right wing Italian politician calling Elton John "a Taliban" and comparing the situation to the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
Elton John was then seen in LA holding a Dolce & Gabbana shopping bag one day later, but apparently it was just "for his packed lunch". One day, Elton. You had to put your tuna sandwich in a Versace bag for one day to avoid those headlines.
Dolce & Gabbana sort of backtracked on their comments yesterday. In an interview with CNN, Gabbana said, "Maybe we chose the wrong words" adding, "We love gay couples" and "We love gay adoption." Dolce was a bit less forthcoming, saying, "I don't think we need to support or don't support," [sic.] and, "You think what you think."
"I don't boycott Elton John", he helpfully pointed out.
Those strong words weren't enough to stop a protest happening outside the brand's Bond Street flagship store yesterday, organised by LGBT rights organisations the Out and Proud Diamond Group and the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
I went down to the protest at lunch time to see whether there were any handbags being hurled onto bonfires or heels being snapped off a pair of £525 stilettos.
Instead I found a relatively tame event with about 30 to 40 protesters holding paper posters and chanting "Shame on you!" outside the glossy doors of D&G, with a dozen policemen circling the crowd.
"We want to send a message to Dolce & Gabbana, and to all homophobes everywhere, that bigotry has a price," gay rights campaigner and protest co-organiser Peter Tatchell told me at the event. "Gay homophobes are the worst of the worst. To betray your own community is shameful. Such ill-informed and nasty opinions cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged. We hope it will inspire similar protests at D&G stores worldwide."
I spoke to James [pictured above], who has only recently got married to his husband. "They say that a family can only be a mum and a dad. Being a gay man who's married, I completely disagree with that," he said. "I hope we can bring this into the public eye so that people can see that this is still an issue and that people have these outdated views. Why shouldn't two guys or two girls have a child as long as they're loving parents? Surely that's all that matters."
In the middle of the crowd was right-wing columnist Rod Liddle, who was shouting at Peter Tatchell on behalf of Dolce & Gabbana, "So you think nobody should buy anything from a company that has said something you disagree with? Hugo Boss, who made clothes for the Nazis and storm troopers in the Second World War, Coco Chanel who was a collaborationist – boycott them all? Most fashion outlets are a bunch of fascists, but you don't try and close them down," he yelled over the foghorns.
"You are ruining the day for the people who work in there and you're bullying the customers that want to go in. People don't have a right to boycott a company and try to close them down simply because they've annoyed Elton John. It's absurd." He then added, "It's seems to me that you seem to live your life like a candle in the wind."
"We're saying that Dolce and Gabbana have a right to free speech. We also have a right to protest, and refuse to by their clothes," Tatchell responded. "It may not have been their intention but their views have already been picked up by the far-right and their comments reflect a justification for that."
I asked Roshen, who is a part of the Out and Proud Diamond Group, what they were hoping to achieve with the protest. "I want them to come and say sorry, because it's so insensitive of them to say things like that. I'm a lesbian and it's not only affecting me and other gay people, but straight people too. As much as you are free to express your opinion, a lot of people like me are hoping to have children."
Another protester, Jason [pictured above], shared a similar opinion. "I hope they will make a proper apology instead of attacking people, which is what they've done afterwards," he told me.
"We find their views quite reprehensible. I think it's really sad that they said the only family should be a mother and father because there's a lot of single mothers and grandparents bringing up children as well as gay people. A family is more about what love you give to a child than this strict idea."
As the protest drew to a close, the policemen ushered the protesters into a semi circle for a final photo opportunity. Passers by tried to take selfies with the crowd and one bloke's huge multi-coloured wig blew off his head and into the face of a passing woman. That was a small distraction: the protest served its purpose of calling out a pair of old hypocrites. If only Elton had turned up.
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