March 12th, 2010 15:26 EST
Japan and the Devil Wears and Works For Prada
Rina Bovrisse, a former senior retail manager for Prada Japan, has leveled some serious accusations against CEO Davide Sesia and others in the Japanese version of the fashion conglomerate. She oversees 500 employees and 40 shops in Japan as well as one each on the islands of Guam and Saipan.
She alleges that Sesia ordered her to fire (his actual words were "eliminate" but I assume he was not calling for hitmen) 15 shop managers because they were "old, fat, and ugly" and did not have the "Prada look". Several of these managers, Bovrisse pointed out, managed some of the most profitable shops. Nonetheless, the "elimination order" was not rescinded.
I have not seen any pictures of the managers in question so I cannot comment on the "old" and "ugly" parts of the complaint (not that I would be able to anyway). As for the "fat", this is Japan so I find it nigh impossible to believe that 15 managers were actually fat. It would be hard to find 15 people in Japan who are fat!
What Sesia undoubtedly meant was that there were fifteen store managers who were not "under 25 and permanently botoxed, not anorexic, and not supermodels". When Bovrisse continued to balk, Sesia got Resources Manager Hiroyuki Takahashi to carry out the order, giving demotions and firings base on "poor sales" even though three in question were sales leaders for Prada Japan.
Furthermore, Bovrisse, a Japanese citizen, alleges that Takahashi ordered her to change her hair color and style and lose weight or face immediate demotion. When she refused she was placed on suspension and then docked for her failure to show up for work. She, also, claimed that in some cases, shop managers were forced to buy Prada products to boost their own sales results, with refusal to comply leading to demotion or firing.
Marta Monaco at Prada`s headquarters in Milan, Italy said it was "innappropriate..to add comment regarding this matter." Lawyers have taken up the case and Bovrisse says that she hopes it ill be an opportunity to improve the working conditions of women in Japan.
I cannot say for certain that these allegations are true but if anything can be done to help improve the poor and often sexual harassed situation of female workers in Japan, it`s hard to overlook to potential upside.