Prada’s gender discrimination lawsuit gets ugly

Italian fashion house Prada makes some of the most beautiful clothes in the world, but a former employee says there’s a lot of ugliness behind the scenes.

Fashion industry veteran Rina Bovrisse joined Prada Japan in 2009 as a senior operations manager in charge of 50 employees. Soon after, the Parsons New School of Design grad charged that Japan division CEO Davide Sesia ordered her to fire 15 top-selling salespeople because they were “old, fat, ugly, disgusting or did not have the Prada look.”

She objected and was threatened with a huge demotion, according to court documents.

“On Sept. 29, 2009, at 7 p.m., Prada Japan’s human resources manager called Rina into a meeting room and warned her, ‘You need to change your hairstyle. You need to lose weight. The CEO is ashamed of your ugliness and will not introduce you to any visitors from Milan. He already spoke to Milan’s HR head about this and they also think this is a serious problem,'” a source told the New York Daily News in April.

Instead, she opted to band together with Prada colleagues to file a lawsuit against the company, arguing that the CEO’s demands violated Article 709 of Japanese Civil Law.

Tokyo District Court presiding judge Reiko Morioka ruled against Bovrisse and her colleagues in October 2012, stating that “well-compensated female employees in the fashion industry should be able to withstand a certain level of harassment.”

Prada is now suing Bovrisse for $780,000, charging that she damaged the company’s reputation.

Bovrisse is pressing on: She’s working with The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women to refile the lawsuit in the United States. They’ve also started a petition to help their case — it currently has about 210,000 signatures.

The company, based in Milan, Italy, hasn’t commented publicly on the lawsuit or countersuit.

Tell us

Who’s right: Prada or Rina Bovrisse? Should well-paid women in fashion put up with harassment? Sound off in the comments!

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Photo: Lucid Public Relations