Zara has been facing criticism after a Toronto-based employee was asked to take out her box braids, shown below, because they looked "unprofessional."
It all started when 20-year-old Cree Ballah came into work in late March with box braids that were gathered and tied up in the back. One of her managers asked her to remove the braids shortly thereafter.
Ballah told CBC Toronto, "They took me outside of the store and they said, 'We're not trying to offend you, but we're going for a clean professional look with Zara and the hairstyle you have now is not the look for Zara.'"
At this point Ballah's managers proceeded to see what they could to do "fix" her hairstyle — an experience she described as being "humiliating."
Ballah's experience is reminiscent of Akua Agyemfra's, the restaurant employee who was sent home for having her natural hair up in a bun. Coincidentally, Agyemfra also lived and worked in Toronto. In both cases, these women were unable to fulfill their employers' arbitrary beauty standards simply because of the texture of their strands. As Ballah stated, "My hair type is also linked to my race, so to me, I felt like it was direct discrimination against my ethnicity in the sense of what comes along with it."
Zara has since stated that it does not tolerate any form of discrimination; however, the company ultimately supports the managers who, in the brand's opinion, "engaged directly the employee on this matter and respect the privacy of those discussions."