But that was before local officials initiated a criminal investigation into her about aggravated fraud, followed by an Italian consumer rights group bringing a class-action suit. Eventually Ms. Ferragni consented to pay a substantial fine, donating her fee for hosting the annual Sanremo Music Festival, Italy’s most popular television broadcast, for what she termed a “communication error.” Yet, despite the gesture of contrition, she found herself abandoned by major sponsors like Coca-Cola, the eyewear giant Safilo and then by followers in the hundreds of thousands.
When, at last, Ms. Ferragni resurfaced on Instagram after the Christmas holidays, it was to post a distinctly unglamorous mea culpa reel. In it, the social media star appeared starkly deglamorized, wearing scant makeup and dressed in a drab gray shirt resembling prison garb, to issue a public apology and to announce a genuine personal donation, this one a million euros to the Regina Margherita Hospital in Turin, Italy.
Even at that, it took no time for critics to seize on her misjudged optics, noting that the shirt she was wearing sells for 600 euros and is cashmere, and for memes to proliferate poking fun at her wardrobe choices, her no longer exalted status as one half of a glamour couple known as “Ferragnez” and even the family dog.
“Unfortunately, she must have bad people around her and made all the wrong choices,” said Raffaello Napoleone, the chief executive of Pitti Immagine, the Italian fashion and design trade group, before the Neil Barrett men’s wear show on Saturday. “When you make an apology, you have to appear as you really are. She appeared as a nun, and she is not a nun.”
It was no help to Ms. Ferragni’s cause that Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s prime minister, took to attacking her in fiery public speeches as an affront to decency, honesty and the very core of “Italianity,” or Italianness. And in that, some saw not only political opportunism (Fedez has been a vocal critic of the right-wing leader), but also “more than a whiff of misogyny,” as one fashion critic noted at the Dsquared show, speaking anonymously in adherence with her publication’s employment guidelines.
“Yes, she overstepped, as maybe all the influencers overstep by becoming gurus,” the critic added. “But the woman-on-woman attack feeds into a prevailing anti-feminist rhetoric.”