Let 2013 be remembered as the year that Jay Z's releasing a holiday collection in collaboration with Barneys, and also, the year young black men still couldn't go into Barneys to buy luxury items without being questioned by store employees and cops.
It was also the year that Kanye rapped, on national television:
"You see it's broke nigga racism, that's that 'Don't touch anything in the store,' and it's rich nigga racism, that's that 'Come in, please buy more.'"
And so it goes: the New York Daily News reports on their front cover today that Queens college student Trayon Christian was apprehended by the NYPD after Barneys phoned in their suspicion that Christian had purchased a $349 Salvatore Ferragamo belt with a fraudulent credit card. The thing is: The card and money? All his.
On April 29, Christian headed to Barneys' flagship store on Madison Avenue right after his work-study paycheck cleared to bank account. Christian had been saving up to purchase a belt he had seen Juelz Santana wear. He picked out the exact belt with no fuss and paid for it, even showing his state ID to the clerk who asked for identity verification.
After leaving the store, Christian was confronted by two NYPD officers who detained him because Barneys had phoned police on suspicions that Christian was committing credit card fraud, purchasing the belt with a fake card. Christian explained that the cops then asked him if he was employed, and by whom, and then proceeded to search his personal belongings.
It's downright sociopathic that Barneys would undertake a widely-publicized project to secure its financial future, and then be suspicious of the very clientele that the project aims to bring through its doors.
“The detectives were asking me, ‘How could you afford a belt like this? Where did you get this money from?’” Christian told the News, noting that he was detained from 7:04 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. before being released without being charged. He is now filing suit against Barneys and the NYPD for unspecified damages, and has since returned the belt.
We're gonna go off here, a bit: Barneys' partnering holiday collection with Jay Z will be hitting shelves soon. It's an obvious but welcomed move to open its doors to hip-hop's increasingly high-fashion obsessed fanbase, a large portion of which are young black men. The store—which needs all the financial help it can get these days—is looking to cater to and profit from a subculture that luxury brands previously shunned out of fear they'd devalue their brands. Kanye wasn't far off when he told Zane Lowe that rappers (and subsequently, the consumers that spend money on keeping up with rappers) are the driving force of culture right now. Any halfway decent business wouldn't ignore the fact that several slacking fashion houses found new life when embraced by hip-hop, and that brands from Hood By Air to Mark McNairy to Supreme have skyrocketed to popularity and monetary windfalls when they align themselves with hip-hop's biggest stars, and their product shoots up in value, to boot.
So: It seems incredibly hypocritical and downright sociopathic that Barneys would undertake a widely-publicized project to secure its financial future, and then be suspicious of the very clientele that the project inherently aims to bring through its doors. No doubt Barneys will say that its corporate policies in no way warranted a call to the police based on suspicions of the veracity of Christian's money, and that this was the act of one rogue salesperson. But it may speak to the culture of the high-end store—or, simply, the culture of young black men in America, in 2013—that this went down, that the mere sight of a young black man buying something nice with the money he earned is such an absurd abberation that, at Barneys at least, it warrants the suspicion of fraud.
Update: After previously declining to comment to the New York Daily News, Barneys' Facebook page has been updated with the following, as attributed to a company spokesperson:
"Barneys New York typically does not comment on pending litigation. In this instance, we feel compelled to note that after carefully reviewing the incident of last April, it is clear that no employee of Barneys New York was involved in the pursuit of any action with the individual other than the sale. Barneys New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination and we stand by our long history in support of all human rights."
[via NY Daily News]