In December, Shameal Lataillade filed a complaint against her former employer Moschino, alleging an assistant manager at the West Hollywood, Los Angeles store referred to Black shoppers as “Serena” and asked employees to follow them round the store. According to The Fashion Law, Lataillade joined the company in 2015 and says she was wrongly terminated last spring, “following ongoing and atrocious harassment and discrimination based on her status as a Black, Haitian American woman.”
Unfortunately, Lataillade’s reported experience isn’t new. A Versace store in Pleasanton, California, allegedly used similar tactics mentioned in the Moschino complaint and in 2016, a former employee sued the Italian fashion house (the investigation is still underway). But are these lawsuits a residual effect of a bigger problem — brand DNA?
Last Fashion Month, across the board, the spring runways saw huge improvements for castings involving non-white, plus-size, and transgender/non-binary models. However, Milan came in last when it came to racial diversity. "Europe is old, conservative, and very stuck in their ways," French model Clémentine Desseaux, told Refinery29 in August, saying there still isn't enough of a market in her home country to build a viable career as a plus-size model. "They know what works and what’s safe and do not even try to change things up for fear of losing what they have." Lataillade’s claims against the Moschino store manager hold weight because the brand is responsible for the actions of its employees, Fashionista clarified.
According to Fashionista, the 36-page Moschino complaint alleges Black shoppers “would throw hundreds of dollars on the floor of the dressing room while they were trying on clothing in their desperation to show sales associates that they did have the money and could afford to purchase the items in the store.”
The idea that Black people aren’t capable of buying luxury products is not only racist, it’s antiquated, especially when you consider Black spending power. In 2018, Nielsen found that even though Black people only make up 14 percent of the US population, they were responsible for $1.2 trillion in purchases annually.
“It's a sad reality that despite the amount of money, time and loyalty that people of colour, especially women, put into luxury brands like Moschino and [Moschino's parent company] Aeffe Brands, these companies still fail to exhibit basic respect through workplace policies from the boardroom to the boutique floor,” Lataillade told Fashionista in a statement posted on Friday. She continued: “It's not so much that these situations occur, but that when they happen, a significant number of companies fail to set up systems to protect their employees against harassment and discrimination. Instead, such companies set up protocols, procedures and processes that allow harassment and discrimination to thrive and force people to endure hostile work environments.”
Moschino has issued a statement saying it "complies with applicable equal employment laws and values and respects all customers and clients regardless of their race or background."
Increasingly, brands without a strategy to target and include different demographics are learning they need to do so to be successful. And high-end fashion brands aren’t any different. Black women are gaining financially and politically while maintaining cultural clout. It’s in brand’s like Moschino’s interest to recognise that and treat it as their bottom dollar.