How Will Barney's Recent Scandal Affect its Jay Z Hublot Collaboration?

Will accusations of racial profiling hurt Barney’s launch of Jay Z’s Shawn Carter Hublot watch? Or, will the launch of the watch collection help Barney’s reputation in light of the scandal?

After two young black shoppers accused luxury retailer Barney’s of racial profiling, eyes and ears are turning toward Jay Z, whose Shawn Carter Hublot watch line is due to launch at Barney’s in time for the holidays.

In response to the racial profiling accusations, someone launched a petition on Change.org asking Jay Z to end his partnerships with Barney’s New York. As of Friday afternoon, it had more than 3,000 signatures. So far, Jay Z hasn’t said anything publicly about the issue.

Here’s what two other notable personalities had to say about the accusations:

  • Star Jones Tweeted on Thursday Looks like I’m going to have to put #Barneys on time out. This #ShoppingWhilteBlack is out of hand.
  • Former NFL-er Carl Banks: #jayz may want to think about partnership. Another black Barneys shopper accused after buying $2G purse

The rapper has an exclusive deal with Barney’s for his Hublot watch collection, which is priced at $17,900 and up. Only 250 of the limited edition black ceramic and 100 of the 18k gold timepieces will be made.

In response to the allegations, Barney’s told NBCNews that it has hired a civil rights expert to review its fairness and equality practices.(3) CEO Mark Lee posted an apology on Facebook saying the company has a zero-tolerance policy for any form of discrimination.

So, the question remains: If Jay Z and Barney’s move forward with the partnership, who loses?

  • Barney’s. The store must be in full reputation damage control as more news stories and social shares keep the story alive. As of Friday afternoon, the CEO’s Facebook post had almost 100 comments, most of which admonished the retailer for discrimination of many kinds. Facebook user Laura Mulloy Ault replied: “You have to be kidding me… when I asked for an evening dress in a size 10 I nearly got laughed out of the store. Barney’s, I love you. But your values need SERIOUS realignment…”
  • Jay Z. He’s trying to enjoy his tour in Europe while his wife is in Australia, and now this 99th problem adds to his woes.
  • Hublot. The watchmaker is popular among A-list celebrities like Alex Rodriguez, 50 Cent, Alicia Keys, Usain Bolt and producer The Dream. (4) and (5) It’s doubtful anything will tarnish the reputation of the maker of “the world’s most expensive watch.”

Barney’s the second big racial-profiling-celebrity-shopping story we’ve read this year. In August Oprah shared her story of “handbag racism” while visiting a boutique in Switzerland. The store’s clerk wouldn’t show the self-made billionaire an $18,000 handbag and told the queen of all media, “It’s too expensive.” Clearly, the clerk didn’t recognize Ms. Winfrey.

UPDATE

Jay Z released a statement in regards to his partnership and Barney’s alleged racial profiling:

“This collaboration lives in a place of giving and is about the Foundation. I am not making a dime from this collection; I do not stand to make millions, as falsely reported. I need to make that fact crystal clear. The Shawn Carter Foundation is the beneficiary and the foundation is receiving 25% of all sales from the collaboration, 10% of all sales generated in the store on November 20th and, an additional donation from Barneys. This money is going to help individuals facing socio-economic hardships to help further their education at institutions of higher learning. My idea was born out of creativity and charity… not profit.

I move and speak based on facts and not emotion. I haven’t made any comments because I am waiting on facts and the outcome of a meeting between community leaders and Barneys. Why am I being demonized, denounced and thrown on the cover of a newspaper for not speaking immediately? The negligent, erroneous reports and attacks on my character, intentions, and the spirit of this collaboration have forced me into a statement I didn’t want to make without the full facts. Making a decision prematurely to pull out of this project, wouldn’t hurt Barneys or Shawn Carter, but all the people that stand a chance at higher education. I have been working with my team ever since the situation was brought to my attention to get to the bottom of these incidents and at the same time find a solution that doesn’t harm all those that stand to benefit from this collaboration.

I am against discrimination of any kind, but if I make snap judgements, no matter who it’s towards, aren’t I committing the same sin as someone who profiles? I am no stranger to being profiled and I truly empathize with anyone that has been put in that position. Hopefully this brings forth a dialogue to effect real change. – Shawn “JAY Z” Carter”

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