Former Versace employee accuses brand of racial profiling in court case
By Sewe Ishola
Italian design brand, Versace, is facing some charges for an alleged racist practice, where workers alerted each other with a special code, when a black person enters the store.
The accusation is coming from a former employee, Christopher Sampiro, 23, who claims he was taught to abide by the secret code, when he was hired at a Versace retail store at Pleasonton in California. He is suing the brand for unpaid wages and damages.
In the lawsuit, Sampiro claimed the employees at the Bay Area Versace store used the code word ‘D410’ to casually let each other know when a black person walked into the store. The same code is also used in identifying all black clothing.
The Plantiff, who self-identifies himself as one-quarter African American replied his manager when he became aware of this practice by asking, “You know that I’m African American ?” After this occurrence, Sampiro claims he was denied rest breaks and a “legitimate” training. He was fired two weeks later.
The management told Sampiro that he was laid off because he hadn’t “lived the luxury life” as stated in the lawsuit.
Versace has denied the allegations and filed a request for dismissal of the suit. Though this is not the first time the Italian fashion house has been accused of similar questionable actions related to race.
Versace courted controversy recently with an ad that depicted model Gigi Hadid as the wife of an African-American man and the mother of two biracial children, one of whom looks about 5 or 6 years old. This time, though, the kerfuffle was not over race, but instead about the perceived glamorizing of teen pregnancy, as Hadid, 21, would have had to have given birth to the child at high-school age. According to the Huffington Post, some had dubbed the campaign “Teen Mom: Versace Edition.”
In reaction to the observation and criticism, Versace released a statement saying that: “The campaign is made of a series of tableaux, some real-life and some fantastical. One part of the story is very glamorous, almost a fantasy, a kind of dream. The other part of the story is the same people but in their real lives”