On page 8 of this month’s magazine is a story about Chanel.

To summarise, Russian shoppers and influencers have become vocal over the last month about the sanctions placed on the country since its government invaded Ukraine.

Luxury brand Chanel has for some reason – perhaps its own notorious past affiliation with the Nazi Party – taken the brunt of this discontent after it, like other businesses, closed its Russian stores.

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Members of the public in Moscow, as well as Paris, were photographed sticking to Chanel stores posters of Hitler with the brand logo in place of his face.

Elsewhere, influencers have taken to Instagram to post videos of themselves cutting up or auctioning off their Chanel bags, with one hoping to raise money for those affected by the war.

The consensus from the rest of the world is that the plight of Ukraine is somewhat more serious than Russian consumers missing out on their favourite products.

Indeed, if the Russian public are upset by the closures then most would argue the sanctions are doing their job – causing unrest and hopefully making the government pay attention.

One Russian influencer, however, claimed she was denied purchase of a bag and earrings in a Chanel store, not in Russia but in Dubai, because of an EU sanction that includes anyone a company believes may take a luxury product worth €300 or more back to Russia. (There are also reports of Russians unable to access their money when abroad.)

A similar rule has now been extended to the UK, where Russian shoppers are limited when buying luxury items worth more than £300. Harrods spoke about the issue this week, revealing that it had sent an email to all of its customers with Russian residency explaining the new rule.

Marginalising an entire country of people feels strangely unethical in its own way, says PJ Editor Sam Lewis.

This is an extremely complex and difficult situation with no clear-cut right or wrong.

While it seems sensible to stop people undercutting the sanctions by taking products back to Russia, there are ethical questions, such as how an employee determines whether a customer is Russian, or more generally on the marginalising of Russians the world over.

Harrods’ explanation of the situation has provided some clarity on how retailers can approach the issue with customers, but it still does not answer all questions about how shop staff are supposed to identify and broach the subject with potential Russian customers in-store.

Legally allowing store staff in other parts of the world to turn away people purely because they believe them to be Russian, people who may not have set foot in Russia for many years, feels eerily similar to American segregation or the first stages of Nazi Germany’s persecution of the Jewish people.

The post-Cold War days when every other Hollywood blockbuster contained at least one stereotyped Russian villain still feel very recent.

Let’s not go back to that us-versus-them mindset, and recognise that not every Russian is responsible for or in support of this war. Let’s not let someone’s accent get in the way of good business relationships.

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