News broke yesterday that a salesperson from Barneys had been suspicious of a 19-year-old black man purchasing a Ferragamo belt from the store's Madison Avenue flagship location. Customer Trayvon Christian purchased the $349 belt, and then was detained by the NYPD on suspicions that he had used a fraudulent credit card. 

Today, a second instance of discrimination came forth. Kayla Phillips, a 21-year-old black woman reported that she was surrounded and questioned by police after she purchased a Celine bag from Barneys this past February.

We contemplated out loud what it meant that Barneys was attempting to partner with Jay Z on its annual holiday collection of limited items, and yet was suspicious of the young black men and women, who comprise a large portion Jay Z's core fan base, making luxury purchases in its doors.

Now, people are beginning to mobilize against the allegations of discrimination, and a petition on is asking Hov to "End all partnerships with Barneys New York." The petition's author, Derick Bowers, says that he's a "lifelong Jay Z fan" but "Jay Z should be appalled by Barneys actions, and withdraw all support from them."

Bowers believes that, "If he does this, he will send a clear message to all corporations that are likeminded, that this behavior cannot be tolerated any longer." 

Bowers has also created a T-shirt to mark these allegations against Barneys, which reads "Barneys New Slaves." It's an apt referene to the prescient Kanye lyrics in "New Slaves" that we began our coverage with yesterday, and definitely apply to the alleged racial profiling and targeting by Barneys:

"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.'"

The T-shirt retails for $25, with all proceeds going to the Boys and Girls Club of America.


The Barneys Facebook page posted this statement at 5:45 p.m.

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.

Further to our statement of yesterday, we want to reinforce that Barneys New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination. We are a strong proponent of equal rights and equal treatment for all human beings. Our mission is to ensure that all customers receive the highest-quality service—without exception.

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. To lead this review, we have retained a civil rights expert, Michael Yaki, who also serves on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The Commission has been the nation’s watchdog for civil rights for more than 50 years. Mr. Yaki will be provided with unrestricted access to all aspects of our store operations.

In addition, Barneys New York has reached out to community leaders to begin a dialogue on this important issue.


Mark Lee
CEO of Barneys New York


The Daily News reports that Barneys CEO Mark Lee is going to meet with Kirsten John Foy and the Reverend Al Sharpton—two leaders of the civil rights activist group National Action Network. They have scheduled a sitdown for Tuesday.

Foy said, “I had two phone calls with Barneys CEO Mark Lee... he agreed to meet next Tuesday. He expressed his grave concern about the incident and wanted to articulate that... he’s begun to take steps to review his policies." 

No statement yet from Jay Z, who is currently in Europe on the "Magna Carta Tour," and who last weekend showed off the $34,000 Shawn Carter by Hublot watch that will be part of the Jay Z for Barneys holiday collection.