Rina Bovrisse has been a thorn in Prada‘s side for some time—four years, to be exact. In 2009 the former employee of Prada Tokyo filed suit alleging sexual harassment and discrimination, and the United Nations backed her up earlier this year. Her allegations reveal some serious problems with gender relations in the workplace in Japan:
“Prada Japan CEO David Sesia reportedly demoted or dismissed female staff members who he deemed were ‘old, fat, ugly, disgusting, or did not have the Prada look'”
Bovrisse also told stories about employees being forced to buy expensive Prada products and pressured into sex by their superiors. But when she finally decided to make some noise on the topic, she got a visit from someone in HR who told her:
“You will have to change your hairstyle. And you will have to lose weight. The CEO is so ashamed of your ugliness that he won’t introduce you to any visitors from Milan.”
It gets worse after the jump:
According to Bovrisse, HR went on to accuse her of being mentally ill and sent her a resignation letter to sign.
In 2012 a Tokyo court agreed that the company was guilty of discrimination but still ruled against the accuser, primarily due to Japan’s lax sexual harassment laws. She turned to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which agreed to take on her case and will now use it to push the country to get serious about women’s rights. Prada counter-sued for defamation, claiming that Bovrisse’s statements were false.
The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan disagrees: next month Bovrisse will be the featured speaker at an event titled “Rejecting the Code of Silence: A Japanese Woman Breaks Rank to Fight for Working Women’s Rights“. However the suit proceeds, this is a big problem for Prada.
Someone from the brand’s PR team summarized its position to Salon, which published an interview with Bovrisse today:
“In our opinion, this is just an instrumentalization, that is to say an attempt to use highly ethical issues for mere personal interests. Prada is now aiming to establish before the Tokyo District Court that the initiatives promoted by Ms. Bovrisse in the media and through public demonstrations were a defamation against Prada, causing damage to Prada.”
Are you convinced?