Rapper and business mogul Jay Z received a firestorm of backlash when he decided to move forward with the release of his limited-edition holiday line, in collaboration with Barneys. After a Black college student, Trayon Christian, was arrested for “shopping while Black” when he purchased a $350 belt at the luxury retailer that police didn’t believe he could afford, an online petition was started, calling for Jay Z to boycott Barneys and drop the BNY SCC collection (short for Barneys New York and Shawn Corey Carter). Jay’s decision to continue the partnership, sparked an outcry from fans who feel the Marcy Projects native has officially become disconnected from his core fan base. I visited the collection at the flagship Barneys store on Madison Ave. in New York — where two headline-making allegations of racial discrimination have now occurred — to see the line for myself and find out how they treat Black shoppers. Read about my experience and what I think of the collection…
Nestled in the corner on the third floor of Barneys, are a group of individuals finger-combing through python and leather material as they are trailed by salesmen who have become their personal shopper. A black wall, adorned with the Sean Carter Collection’s golden insignia–a modern, Illuminati-like snowflake–separates Jay Z’s BNY SCC holiday line from Lanvin and Alexander McQueen. One burly security guard and a token Black model stand awkwardly in front the entrance of the sectioned off space as if they’re anticipating two things: Black shoppers and Black shoppers. “Looking for the Jay Z collection?” the leggy model asked. Feeling stereotyped because of my skin color, I was tempted to reply “No,” but I was, so instead I just nodded and swallowed the idea that I’d probably be the Black girl who shouldn’t be shopping at Barneys because she obviously can’t “afford” it when the guard later explains it to his wife. I stood out like a sore thumb.
How Trayon Christian, the college student arrested for purchasing a $350 belt, even mustered enough courage to shop in that stifling environment is baffling. The slender White man shopping beside me had no idea I was studying his appearance and movements. A Louis Vuitton hat cradled his locks and a Louis belt secured his jeans from falling. A diamond encrusted chain that glistened like Christmas tree tinsel, peeked as he navigated the decadent interior of the SCC maze. He was just the kind of person I was expecting to be crawling the black lit space. I can’t help but to think that guys like the him, who bathe in Hip-Hop culture and wash with old money are oblivious to the “shopping while Black” epidemic. With a worker strapped to his back, neatly folding $365 resin covered jeans over his arm as they ventured the line’s oddities–a Cohida Comidor Cedar-Lined Humidor Set ($1,000), The Elder Statesman Cashmere Ski Mask ($695), a $560 Lanvin Vinyl Coated Camo Jacquard Tie– he asked for my opinion of Jay’s “Gold” cologne. “It’s strong. I don’t want to smell old,” he said. “Gold” is one of two items that ring in under the $200 mark. The fragrance (that actually smells amazing) and a $70 T-shirt are the only “affordable” items in the collection. It forced me to question, to whom is Jay marketing his BNY SCC line? Is it Barneys’ core audience or anyone who can put together enough change to purchase a (luxury) piece from Jay Z? Because here’s the thing, no traditional person of wealth is going to cop that Black Leather Brooklyn Baseball Hat With Python Brim ($875) or the Kanye West-like ski mask.
I imagine BNY SCC to appeal to two kinds of people: the same White man covered in name brands who probably quoted “The Eminem Show” verbatim all the way to soccer practice as a kid and grew up fond of indulging in the only part of poverty that is intriguing–street wear; or Kayla Phillips, the Home Depot worker who saved her income tax to buy a $2,500 Celine bag.
Because Jack from accounting at that prominent Wall Street law firm most-likely isn’t dying to splurge on that hot two-finger ring. Everything about the BNY SCC line seems like a joke. In an alleged attempt to send funds to the Shawn Carter Foundation, Jay has lured Blacks to Barneys and Barneys doesn’t even know what to do with us because despite the stores very PC press statements and “apologies,” I believe they don’t want us there. And that’s why he should have cancelled his line, because Barneys doesn’t care for Blacks and probably never will. If Jay Z would have walked into Barneys, looking like this (photo below) he too would have been profiled.
Furthermore, the collection is ugly and disjointed. Its luster lies in its opulence and I’m not here for it. Are you? Share your thoughts on Jay Z’s Barney’s partnership in the comment section.
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