Ever since two young, black customers came out against Barneys New York last week with accusations of racial profiling, Jay Z—who is partnering with the retailer on a high-end line for the holidays—has faced pressure to cut ties with the store and call his collaboration off. Fans of the rapper are standing on the argument that Barneys doesn’t care to connect with its African-American customers or the hip-hop community, and have been pushing a petition on Change.org calling for an end to the partnership, which currently has 15,996 signatures.
Jay Z’s collection for Barneys—called “A New York Holiday” or BNY SCC—will include luxe, limited-edition products created in collaboration with designers like Balenciaga, Proenza Schouler, and Balmain, with 25% of all proceeds benefitting the Shawn Carter Foundation.
Over the weekend, Jay Z responded to the mounting pressure by releasing a statement on his website, Life + Times:
This collaboration lives in a place of giving and is about the Foundation. I am not making a dime from this collection; I do not stand to make millions, as falsely reported. I need to make that fact crystal clear. The Shawn Carter Foundation is the beneficiary and the foundation is receiving 25% of all sales from the collaboration, 10% of all sales generated in the store on November 20th and an additional donation from Barneys. This money is going to help individuals facing socio-economic hardships to help further their education at institutions of higher learning. My idea was born out of creativity and charity… not profit.
He continues by saying how disappointed he is that he’s become a scapegoat of sorts for not immediately speaking out against Barneys, and if he pulls out of his collaboration, his foundation will be the one to suffer the consequences. “I am no stranger to being profiled and I truly empathize with anyone that has been put in that position,” Jay Z said in his statement. “Hopefully this brings forth a dialogue to effect real change.”
We admire Jay Z’s prompt and heartfelt response to this difficult matter—as well as Barneys’ CEO Mark Lee, who has agreed to meet with Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network—but we have a hunch that this situation will get worse before it gets better.