By Catherine Makino
Monday, July 19, 2010
Prada countersued the plaintiff in a harassment lawsuit July 12, saying she was hurting the high-fashion Italian company's brand. Rina Bovrisse says the lawsuit gives her another chance to speak up for Japanese women who keep too quiet.
TOKYO (WOMENSENEWS)--Prada countersued Japanese national Rina Bovrisse on July 12 at Tokyo District Court, accusing her of damaging the Italian high-fashion company's brand name by charging it with sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and abuse of its employees.
The Milan, Italy-based Prada claims she spread false information in its lawsuit against Bovrisse.
"Since Ms. Bovrisse summoned Prada Japan, bringing against it false accusations, Prada Japan Ltd. is defending its good name and reputation," said Prada Japan's Mia Morikawa in an email to Women's eNews. "Prada SA Luxemburg, which is the company that owns the Prada trademark, joined Prada Japan in the above mentioned lawsuit with Bovrisse in order to protect its reputation against false accusations that have been hindering and damaging the brand's image."
Bovrisse responded to the lawsuit in a phone interview with Women's eNews, saying, "I'm being sued for speaking out against Prada Japan at press conferences and to reporters, whose articles have appeared all over the world."
Bovrisse said women in Japan are often afraid to speak out about harassment in a way that harks back to the mood among U.S. women in the 1960s and 1970s, before they won major labor rights and harassment and discrimination verdicts.
"They were scared when one person started speaking out for their rights because they were not use to it," she said.
The 36-year-old divorced mother of a 3-year-old son added that, "Prada's lawsuit is a good thing because it shows the company values its brand image more than the working rights of women."
Her lawyers have so far not made any comment on the countersuit.
Bovrisse sued the company on March 19, four days after they fired her.
Bovrisse, who has worked in the fashion business for 18 years, including a stint at the Paris-based Chanel, charged Prada's CEO David Sesia of telling her to terminate 15 shop managers and assistant mangers for being "fat, old, ugly or not having the Prada look."
Prada has denied the allegations but declined to comment more specifically on the suit while it is being litigated. The case is expected to be in court for about a year.
As Prada Japan's former senior manager, Bovrisse oversaw 500 employees in 40 shops in Japan and one shop each in Guam and Saipan.
Timothy Schepis, an American leading consultant for Japan's fashion and luxury industry has been based in Tokyo since 2003. He said that Prada--if it did handle the firings in the way Bovrisse alleges--may have thought it could get away with it. He described harassment and discrimination as common in Japan's luxury fashion industry, particularly among male senior managers.