This week we saw in the news that Versace made a sensitive product mistake: cities are listed on a t-shirt with the country behind it. This t-shirt led to a fuss in China when it became clear that Hong Kong and Macau were not in China but in Hong Kong and Macao. With the recent tensions in Hong Kong, this is of course an even more painful mistake. Versace made deep excuses for this mistake.
When geographical places are used, a (warning) light should flash for the designer: double check everything! Countries, areas, cities etc. are politically charged. As a brand you generally want to stay away from political positions, movements and the like. After all, you want to appeal to the widest possible audience and also stay away from complex discussions.
The use of symbols is also sensitive and should be checked by the design department. For example, Nike recently used an American flag on a shoe to what later turned out to be the flag from an American period of slavery. See our post here.
Both Nike and Versace have recalled all products from the market. However, the damage was already done.