Versace Sued for Allegedly Using a Code Word to Identify Black Shoppers

Luxury Italian label Versace is facing some serious allegations in court.

A former employee at Versace’s location at the San Francisco Premium Outlets, 23-year-old Christopher Sampino, has sued Versace for unpaid wages and failure to provide breaks.

But there’s a more shocking revelation in court documents filed in California last month. Sampino, who began working at the store in September, claims he was asked whether he knew about the store’s “D410 Code,” which a manager asked employees to say in order to alert other employees that a black person had entered the store. According to Sampino, the manager told him he could also “hold a black shirt” when saying the code so shoppers were unaware of what he was talking about. Sampino said the manager explained “D410” is the code on all of the label’s black-colored clothing.

Sampino, who is a quarter African-American, asked the manager, “You know that I’m African-American?” Sampino said the manager seemed surprised. After sharing this information with the manager, Sampino says he was subsequently not properly trained, was not given adequate rest breaks and was then fired around the beginning of October.

Sampino was told the termination was because he “[doesn’t] understand luxury” and hadn’t “lived the luxury life.” Versace has filed a request for dismissal of the suit.

Earlier this year, Versace came under fire for its fall ’16 ad campaign starring models Gigi Hadid and Karlie Kloss. Hadid is depicted with an African-American husband and interracial children, all wearing Versace clothing. The ads stirred up controversy, with some finding it a bit unrealistic to cast the 21-year-old Hadid as the mother of two young children. Others pointed out that one child was strapped into a stroller with a chain. Aside from Hadid and Kloss, most of the people used in the ads were not professional models.

In response, Versace said, “The campaign is made of a series of tableaux, some real-life and some fantastical. One part of the story is very glamorous, almost a fantasy, a kind of dream. The other part of the story is the same people, but in their real lives. They’re on the streets of Chicago. They’re with their friends and families. The combination perfectly illustrates the relevance and wearability of modern Versace for all parts of one’s life, from the ultra-glamourous to the everyday.”

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