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Russian influencers cut up Chanel handbags, claiming ‘Russophobia’

Chanel handbags in Seoul last year. (SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg News)
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Russian influencers are cutting up their Chanel handbags on social media in angry protest over restrictions imposed by the luxury French fashion label that mean they can no longer buy its products abroad.

Chanel confirmed to the BBC this week that it was halting sales of its clothes, perfume, accessories and other items to customers who were intending to use the products in Russia, as a response to President Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. Chanel has already shut its stores within Russia, as have many other brands.

In a statement, Chanel said it has “rolled out a process to ask clients” shopping abroad or “for whom we do not know the main residency” to confirm that the products they are buying “will not be used in Russia.”

Furious owners of the brand’s handbags — including a model, DJ and television presenter — accused Chanel of fueling hatred toward Russians, which they deemed “Russophobia” — echoing Maria Zakharova, Moscow’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, who said earlier this week that Chanel had joined the “Russophobic campaign” to “cancel Russia.”

“Bye-bye, Chanel,” said Russian DJ Katya Guseva as she sliced into her black and gold handbag with a pair of scissors. Guseva uploaded the moment to her Instagram account, where she has more than half a million followers.

Guseva told followers she had long dreamed of owning a Chanel handbag but would not tolerate the brand’s new policy. “Not a single bag, not a single thing is worth my love for my Motherland,” she said.

Chanel did not immediately respond to a Washington Post request for comment.

Russian model Victoria Bonya, who has more than 9 million Instagram followers, also uploaded a video of her destroying a Chanel bag. “Never seen any brand acting so disrespectful towards their clients,” she wrote in the accompanying caption.

In Dubai, Russian influencer Anna Kalashnikova said that as she was admiring a pair of earrings and a bag at an outlet in the United Arab Emirates, she was targeted by employees at the mall.

“Since I often come to Dubai for Fashion Week, Chanel managers recognized me, approached me and said: ‘We know that you are a celebrity in Russia, we know that you will take your purchases there, so we cannot sell you our brand items,’ ” Kalashnikova said on her Instagram account, where she has 2.4 million followers.

A list of global campaigns that are underway in support of Ukraine

Since the invasion of Ukraine in late February, a string of retailers and food companies have joined sports organizations and technology giants in halting operations in Russia. Airlines and media companies have also become part of the global effort to isolate Putin and his country.

Some of the many brands include McDonald’s, Heineken and the dating app Bumble.

This is not the first time Chanel has faced a wave of backlash from angry customers on social media.

In December, the brand’s “luxury” advent calendar was slammed by many around the world who said they regretted spending $800 on the item — which promised to include an array of treasures. While Chanel marketed it as a calendar “unlike any other,” behind its doors lay a string of bizarre gifts, including a dust bag and stickers many mistook for temporary tattoos.

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