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Jay Z's Barneys collection protested after racial profiling claims

October 25, 2013|By August Brown
  • Justin Timberlake, left, and Jay Z perform at the 55th Grammy Awards.
Justin Timberlake, left, and Jay Z perform at the 55th Grammy Awards. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

After two high-profile incidents of young African Americans being questioned after shopping at Barneys, Jay Z's forthcoming collection for the luxury retailer arrives at an awkward time.

Hov's new high-end fashion line for the department store, which debuts Nov. 20, includes a $70 T-shirt and a nearly $34,000 watch. But if several recent high-profile incidents are a sign, the young, hip-hop savvy shopper the line is geared toward might find that purchasing the items could be very unpleasant.

Two recent incidents in the New York City store have drawn comparisons to New York's widely pilloried stop-and-frisk policies. Trayon Christian, a 19-year-old African American man, said that after purchasing a $349 belt from the store, police waiting outside handcuffed him and questioned the validity of his credit card. Another shopper, 21-year-old Kayla Phillips, described a similar recent incident after purchasing a $2,500 handbag.

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In response, an online protest at has emerged asking Jay Z to walk away from his Barneys collection. It's already garnered several thousand signatures.

"Without his vast wealth and brand power, they would see him the same as they see Trayon Christian," writes Derick Bowers, the protest's founder. "Jay Z should be appalled by Barneys' actions, and withdraw all support from them. If he does this, he will send a clear message to all corporations that are likeminded, that this behavior cannot be tolerated any longer."

Barneys is already in damage-control mode, with CEO Mark Lee agreeing to meet with New York civil rights leaders and to launch an internal investigation led by longtime civil rights advocate Michael Yaki. "Barneys New York believes that no customer should have the unacceptable experience described in recent media reports, and we offer our sincere regret and deepest apologies," it said on its Facebook page. "To this end, we are conducting a thorough review of our practices and procedures as they relate to these matters to ensure that they reflect our continued commitment to fairness and equality."


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