Prejudice in the fashion industry unfortunately, is nothing new to us. Joining the extensive list of brands whose executives have been accused of being racist and/or homophobic, Perry Ellis is being sued over claims that the company’s president Oscar Feldenkreis demanded there be no blacks in his ads or anyone who looked too gay.
According to The Guardian, Joseph Cook, the Senior Account Executive who filed the lawsuit alleges he was “forced to endure highly offensive homophobic, racial and ethnic slurs” from Feldenkreis, dating as far back as 2013. The Perry Ellis menswear brand, which also owns Original Penguin, Ping and Nike Swim “categorically denies” all allegations.
Feldenkreis, who is positioned to replace his father as chief executive next year, allegedly also requested that all ads be sent to him so he could properly screen them before publication. The suit also states that his daughter Erica, Brand Director of Original Penguin, could be heard repeatedly telling Cook, “My dad doesn’t like having Black guys in his ads.”
There are countless horrendous anecdotes included, including one where Cook claims that Feldenkreis created a body-based, color-coded system for Black models. Cook says that when someone referred to a model with the code “not 05,” he asked for clarification and was sent an email image of a dozen black Crayola crayons in response.
Cook also accuses Feldenkreis of suggesting he could avoid jury duty simply by “telling them you hate n*ggers and f*gs.”
“As a gay man, Mr. Cook was deeply disturbed by both the nature of this hateful remark and Mr. Feldenkreis’s hostile tone of voice,” Cook’s lawyers wrote.
“It is incredible that a company founded by a gay man can now be so insensitive to others based on their sexual orientation and race,” Cook’s lawyer, Douglas Wigdor, added.
In a statement to the New York Post, a Perry Ellis spokesperson said, “Perry Ellis is a company that promotes equal opportunity and a positive working environment… The claims that have been asserted will be vigorously defended against.”
Although prejudice within the fashion industry is something we are constantly hearing about, we’re equally as disgusted and disappointed with every new discovery.