Italian luxury brand Dolce & Gabbana’s co-founders issued an apology on Friday after Chinese social media users threatened to boycott the company for a controversial advertisement campaign, reported Reuters.

A video campaign of the brand featured a Chinese woman struggling to eat pizza and pasta with chopsticks as a narrator gives eating lessons. Social media users called it out for being racist and patronising. Screenshots of a private conversation on Instagram also showed designer Stefano Gabbana referring to the “China Ignorant Dirty Smelling Mafia”. However, the company claimed his account had been hacked.

In a video posted on China’s microblogging service Weibo, Gabbana and Domenico Dolce said they had “reflected seriously” and were saddened by the impact of their words. “In the face of our cultural misunderstanding, we hope that we can earn your forgiveness,” Dolce said in Italian in a video with Chinese subtitles.

Gabbana also apologised, saying: “We will never forget this experience and lesson, and this sort of thing will never happen again.”

Meanwhile, several e-commerce websites in China such as Kaola and Secoo have removed the brand’s products, The Guardian reported. Luxury retailer Lane Crawford said it would remove the brand from its online websites and stores in China and Hong Kong after customers returned the fashion label’s products.

On Wednesday, the company was forced to cancel a marquee show in Shanghai after various celebrities and social media users threatened to boycott it. A crowd also protested outside the brand’s flagship store in Milan, reported the South China Morning Post. A video posted on social media showed dozens of Chinese protestors, including Chinese model Liu Xingyu, holding “not me” signs outside the store.

However, the following day, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said it was not a diplomatic matter and the government did not want to comment. “Instead of asking the foreign ministry spokesperson, it is better to ask the ordinary people in China to see how they view this issue,” he added.