Priscilla of Boston, a designer wedding dress shop owned by David's Bridal that once outfitted Grace Kelly's bridesmaids, is closing all 19 locations after 65 years, and they have lots of gowns to dispose of. But rather than donating them to a good cause or taking them to sample sales, the Edina, Minnesota store employees spray-painted the expensive gowns pink and threw them in the trash so no one could wear them. As they shuttered their doors on Dec. 30, appalled witnesses caught male workers destroying tens of thousands of dollars of high-end merchandise, including prized Vera Wang dresses. The Daily Mail reports that both local shop owners and customers were shocked that the store could be so thoughtless and wasteful.
"It was just terrible. It was a terrible sight," Bessie Giannakakis told NBC affiliate, KARE-TV: ' You would never in your life think, 'Let's spray-paint a dress.' Give it to somebody... who doesn't have the money."
Another onlooker, Sheila Roth, took photographs of the dresses, shoes, and mannequins still in full attire. She then asked Priscilla of Boston employees why the inventory was being damaged rather than donated. "I was told that 'corporate' ordered that all the remaining inventory be destroyed... [and]... that it had something to do with the contracts with the labels," she told Fox 9 News.
KARE-TV reached out to the retailer, which initially released this statement about the actions:
"Priscilla of Boston has always donated quality bridal gowns to a variety of charitable causes. We do not, however, donate unsaleable dresses that are damaged, soiled or in otherwise poor condition." But witnesses said the only damage they could see was the spray paint.
Retail analyst and author of "Black Market Billions," Hitha Prabhakar told Today.com that they may be deliberately damaging goods to protect their designs. "For some retailers, they're really concerned with their merchandise getting counterfeited, so that's one reason why they would want to go ahead and destroy these items," she said. A similar incident occurred back in 2010 when a woman found bags of slashed clothing and accessories from H&M and Wal-Mart in the trash in New York City. The retail chains both promised to change their practices going forward.
Priscilla of Boston's parent company David's Bridal has also taken complaints to heart and finally agreed to donate their remaining gowns. Here is the statement they sent to Today.com:
"Like many of you, we were disheartened by imagery of a small number of unsold bridal gowns being destroyed following a Priscilla of Boston salon closure in the Midwest. As the parent company of Priscilla of Boston, we fully understand the anger and frustration that many people are feeling about this occurrence.
"While it has been Priscilla of Boston's policy not to make donations of sample dresses that are in poor condition, we recognize that some of these dresses could possibly have gone to worthy causes. David's Bridal has already begun bringing together all of the remaining Priscilla of Boston gowns to evaluate them and ensure that they are donated to our charitable partners wherever possible.
"From all of us at David's Bridal, we truly appreciate hearing your sentiments. We believe that every bride deserves a beautiful gown, and we will continue to honor that commitment."
Tracy DiNunzio, founder of Recycled Bride, which buys and sells gently used wedding dresses, is relieved by this news. "It's heartening to hear that they're going to donate some of the additional dresses, but still sad that so many dresses were destroyed," she told Today.com. "There are a lot of markets like Recycled Bride where dresses like these can be sold at a discount to help make the wedding day special for every bride. I just hope they really do the right thing with the rest of the dresses."