LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A Los Angeles woman is fighting back against fashion house Prada, which is countersuing her for hundreds of thousands of dollars for accusing the company of discrimination.
Rina Bovrisse, who attended Parsons The New School for Design and worked for Chanel in New York, landed a job at Prada Japan in 2009, where she had the opportunity to manage hundreds of employees.
"I love the style, I love the runway, I love the colors, textures of the fabric," she said.
Within two weeks, however, Bovrisse said she noticed image—not fashion—took center stage. She said she observed her superiors berating workers.
"The female employees who were just spotted as old, ugly, or not the type of the CEO or the human resources managers...they were put into a category…they were going to be disappeared," she said.
Bovrisse said she saw at least 15 female managers demoted because they didn't fit the "Prada image."
When she raised opposition to managers, Bovrisse said she was also told to change her look.
"(I was told), 'You are so ugly that the CEO is ashamed of your ugliness, so you won't be introduced to any visitors from Milan,'" she said.
When she complained, Bovrisse claims she was demoted and ultimately let go.
"I was called in the office by the CEO of Japan and I was told because I brought negative energy to the company, I'm fired," she said.
In 2011, Bovrisse filed suit in Japan for harassment and discrimination, but Prada won, with the Japanese court deciding the company's actions were acceptable for a luxury fashion label.
The judgment angered people worldwide, spawning protests and a social media backlash.
"Thanks to social networking, things are transparent now. There is nothing they can really hide," said Bovrisse.
Prada is now countersuing Bovrisse for nearly $800,000 for publicly accusing the company of discrimination.
Undeterred, Bovrisse took her case to the United Nations, demanding justice in Japan and in the fashion industry.
"No one should be in this unsafe environment just because they want to work for fashion," she said.
After hearing Bovrisse's case, the U.N. called on Japan to make harassment illegal in the workplace no matter what the industry.
The website change.org continues to collect hundreds of thousands of signatures demanding Prada drop their countersuit.
Meanwhile, Bovrisse said dozens of current and former Prada employees have confided that they've been victims of discrimination, as well.
Bovrisse said she'll continue to fight and be an example for all women who love fashion.
"I want to eliminate any discrimination, harassment in the fashion industry because that's not beautiful," she said.
Prada wouldn't comment on the litigation.
The Japanese court may issue a ruling on Prada's countersuit by this fall.
for more features.