Fashion label Zimmermann has come under serious fire after an internally-circulated “grooming guide” was leaked publicly. The guide doesn’t feature a single Black person as an aspirational image for staffers, and also makes it practically impossible for Black employees to wear their hair naturally at work.
The company’s “Grooming and Presentation Standards” guide – shared by Diet Prada on Instagram this morning – details how Zimmermann staff are expected to present themselves while working on shop floors around the world. The document goes through an intense amount of expensive makeup products to achieve a “clean, dewy and natural look” – immediately pricing out those who can’t afford luxury brands – and strict hair-styling rules that prohibits high buns, top knots, plaits, and braids.
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@zimmermann , another likely fave of Boho Karens worldwide, is under fire after throwing their hat into the performative allyship ring. As multiple former interns came forward with their experiences facing and witnessing anti-Black discrimination at the company, a telling brand guideline was leaked. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ In the “Grooming & Presentation Standards” portion of the retail employee manual, Black women are completely absent in favor of the likes of Olivia Palermo and various VS angels. This is actually an updated edition—the photos of Asian models were added only after employees raised complaints about its lack of diversity. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ The makeup portion features an exhaustive list of beauty products aimed at achieving a glow like Romee Strijd or Candace Swanepoel, but the hair section is where things get really problematic. By specifying that hair must be “soft, textured loose waves, or blow-dried straight”, while prohibiting “high buns, top knots, plaits, braids”, the language seems worded in a way to make it incredibly difficult for any Black employees to wear their hair natural or in accordance to their cultural identity. Ex-employees say this version of the guide circulated up until Sept. 2019. For reference, the NYC Commission on Human Rights issued new guidelines in Feb. 2019, stating that the targeting of people based on their hair or hairstyle will be considered racial discrimination. An updated version specified that hair could be worn in its natural state, but still prohibited buns, knots, and braids. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ In comments on the brand's post, former intern @desireejcelestin describes a high-level employee mocking a Black model’s hair, comparing it to a dust bunny she picked up off the floor. The model complained to her agency, and was temporarily dismissed until her agent resolved the issue. Zimmermann requested the model apologize. Other Black interns also came forward saying they weren’t allowed to attend the runway show because they “didn’t understand the brand”, while others attended. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ There's a slight silver lining to these hollow posts though—they’re exposing myriad injustices POC face in an industry that seems more rotten day by day. •
The styling requirements from the cult-fave boho label has been criticized for making it basically impossible for black employees to wear their hair naturally, and instead promoting and favouring the ideals of Anglo, Caucasian and Eurocentric beauty.
It is alleged that this personal grooming document was shared within the company up until September 2019, and was also only updated to include aspirational images of Asian models after staffers made complaints about a serious lack of diversity.
Former Zimmermann intern Desiree Celestin has also made allegations of racism and gaslighting rooted within the company’s employees in its US offices, claiming that a higher-up employee once mocked a Black model’s hair and compared it to a handful of dust on the ground. Former intern Maci Marie Bourgeois also claimed her hair was compared to a “furry scarf” during her time within the company, and other Black interns have also shared their experiences of not being allowed to attend runway shows and being told they “didn’t understand the brand.”
After the former interns stepped forward with their experiences, Zimmermann posted its diversity commitment to Instagram – which drew further allegations of employees being racist toward customers, and calls for the company to work harder on diversity in its representation and chosen models. At the time of writing, Zimmermann has not issued a statement or comment about the leaked grooming standards guide.
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Our Commitment: As a brand and as a company, we condemn racism in all forms. We have taken time and reflected on how we can do more to educate our teams, build on our diversity and advance equality in our organisation. We have listened and heard your voices and are focusing on how we can be a force for positive change as we look to the future. We must do better, we must do more. Zimmermann is making the following commitment: Reinforcing zero tolerance for racism or discrimination in our workplaces Ensure diversity in recruitment across our business and create a Diversity and Inclusion leadership group at our company to lead and drive our actions Implement additional training for all our teams to build the culture of diversity and inclusion we strive for Ensure we have constant diverse representation in our campaigns and shows – both behind the scenes and on the runway Donate to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Aboriginal Legal Service here in Australia Encourage our partners to make similar commitments and be active in the conversation about how brands can be a force for change We will continue to listen to our teams, clients and community to learn from them and their experiences, and promise to do more.