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Barneys in Hot Water Over Racial Profiling Allegations

Rivet's 2020 Denim Circularity report takes a deep dive into how the global denim industry is plotting its circular future amidst a worldwide pandemic.

Barneys New York has made enemies in the minority community with alleged charges of racial profiling. After a shopper filed a lawsuit for discrimination earlier this week, more customers have come forward with stories of profiling, putting the retailer in a storm of controversy.

Mark Lee, Barneys CEO, has agreed to meet with the Brooklyn chapter of civil rights activist group National Action Network to discuss the issue.

The luxury retailer is accused of racially profiling an 18-year-old African-American engineering student who was shopping in the Madison Ave. Flagship store in April. Trayon Christian purchased a Salvatore Ferragamo belt for $349, paid with his debit card and left the store, the Daily News reported. Two NYPD detectives then stopped the teen near the store citing that someone from Barneys had concerns about the authenticity of his debit card. Christian was released after the NYPD determined his card to be authentic but he returned the belt and filed a discrimination lawsuit against both the retailer and the NYPD this week.

“Barneys New York believes that no customer should have the unacceptable experience described in recent media reports, and we offer our sincere regret and deepest apologies,” Lee said in a post on the Barneys Facebook page.

The retailer added in another post that while they don’t normally comment on pending litigation, this particular allegation compelled them. “After carefully reviewing the incident of last April, it is clear that no employee of Barneys New York was involved in the pursuit of any action with the individual other than the sale. Barneys New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination and we stand by our long history in support of all human rights.”

Another African-American shopper, Kayla Phillips, came forward this week claiming a similar experience at the store. Phillips visited Barneys to purchase a $2,500 Céline bag and was surrounded by cops and accused of credit card fraud after leaving the store, according to the Daily News.

Rapper Jay-Z had recently teamed up with the high-end retailer to offer an exclusive line of limited edition products as part of “A New York Holiday” for this winter season. Now, shoppers and activists are calling on the hip-hop mogul to pull the partnership and use his celebrity to send a message that racial profiling cannot be tolerated. At publication time, over 3,000 supporters signed a petition on Change.org urging the rapper to end all business with Barneys, but he has yet to comment on the subject.

Barneys says the company is conducting a thorough review of practices and procedures and they have hired civil rights expert, Michael Yaki to aid in the effort.

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