Prada were subject to further embarrassment this week as the United Nations weighed in on the sexual discrimination case that former Prada employee Rina Bovrisse has taken against the luxury brand’s Japanese branch. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on Japan’s State Party to introduce new regulations that would make sexual harassment in the workplace illegal.
“The Committee urges the State Party to introduce in its legislation an offence of sexual harassment, in particular in the workplace, which carries sanctions proportionate to the severity of the offence. The Committee also recommends that the State Party ensures that victims can lodge complaints without fear of retaliation. The Committee recommends that the State party continues to raise the public awareness against sexual harassment,” read a statement from the UN.
Bovrisse was hired by Prada Japan in April 2009 as Senior Retail Operations Manager and tasked with overseeing 500 Prada employees. Prior to the role she had graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York and had worked in the fashion industry for 18 years including stints at Chanel Inc. and Prada USA. She sued the company after Prada Japan CEO David Sesia reportedly demoted or dismissed female staff members who he deemed to be “old, fat, ugly, disgusting, or did not have the Prada look”. Prada denied the allegations, but in November 2012 a Tokyo court ruled that the brand was guilty of discrimination – yet still sided with the Italian fashion house. Tokyo District Court Judge Reiko Morioka stated that their alleged discrimination was “acceptable for a luxury fashion label.” In response, Bovrisse took her case to the UN. Prada has countersued its former employee for making false statements.
So, is it acceptable for luxury brands to expect a certain standard of attractiveness from employees? Bovrisee was not a model for the brand, but an operations manager. Is it necessary for the creative and business personnel to be beautiful too? Miuccia Prada, is not exactly supermodel material yet she is not only the creative force behind the label, but very much associated with the brand and its aesthetic. She is recognised as one of the world’s most innovative and inspiring designers. It’s surprising that other intelligent and successful women within the organisation are not acknowledged for skills and contributions other than their looks.