Two young fashion designers who started their careers appearing in glossy magazines are locked in an ugly battle with their old boss.
Two young fashion designers who started their careers appearing in glossy magazines say they now owe more than $20,000 in unpaid wages and legal fees and have had to rebuild their reputations.
Sophie de Renzy and Zoe Kerr dreamed of working in the fashion industry and had articles published in Elle and Remix magazines.
The couple worked as associate directors for fashion brand Outre Clothing with founder and chief executive Pranav Maharaj, 24.
They designed leisurewear, booked models and styled photo shoots, took care of social media and played a leading role in brand management.
“What happened had a huge impact on both of us and we believe our reputations were tarnished,” de Renzy said.
“I suffer from long-term anxiety after struggling to get by without any money.”
But that ended in February. De Renzy said she arrived at work one morning to find a notice on the door of the owner’s business. He faced eviction from his Newmarket address for rent arrears. De Renzy gave notice and resigned that day.
From then on, de Renzy claims that she was not paid and that she owed salary and vacation pay.
She said she and Kerr were struggling to pay rent and buy food and had each filed serious personal claims against their former boss.
In a legal letter, Renzy’s attorney says Maharaj lied and failed to pay a salary of $6,467.27. Kerr claims to be liable for approximately $14,000 in salaries and legal fees.
De Renzy claims that Maharaj constantly told him that salary payments would be “until the next day”, but nothing ever landed in his bank account.
Emails and text messages seen by the Herald on Sunday show Maharaj assuring Renzy that payments were being processed.
Since leaving Outre, de Renzy had started a new retail job, but was upset that Maharaj had opened in a new location and was looking to hire staff.
To add to the pain, de Renzy said in spite of thousands of people, his former boss sent invitations to a boat party on the same day as his birthday in June.
The invitation promised “lots of guaranteed food and drink.” As well as many networking opportunities.
“I can’t believe he owes us all this money but can throw a party like this.”
De Renzy claims Maharaj was “employing more people and carrying on while promising us we’ll get paid and don’t”.
When called by the Herald on Sunday, Maharaj confirmed the amounts Outre Clothing owned from Renzy and Kerr.
“As far as salary is concerned, we have had cash flow problems for the past two months. We had never missed a salary payment before,” he said.
“I hadn’t planned the amount, it went a little out of whack and I couldn’t pay the girls on time.”
Maharaj said since the company was evicted from its Newmarket studio, it had moved to a smaller space on Albert St in the city.
“I have a part-time employee and we are looking to recruit more people. I don’t want a repeat of what happened.
“Basically, we’re waiting for our business to be settled and we can restart on a smaller scale.”
When asked if it was appropriate to plan a boat party while there were still debtors to pay, Maharaj replied that the party had been put on hold.
“We are getting our finances in order and should have payments to the girls and some of our debtors this afternoon or tomorrow morning,” he said Monday.
“We won’t have the party until people get paid.”
On Tuesday, de Renzy and Kerr received $3,000 from Outre.
“After all this time, we had random $3,000 in our accounts, but it’s not enough and it’s too late,” de Renzy said.
Maharaj said he was trying to get money for all his debtors.
He said he sympathized with de Renzy and Kerr and said he too was trying to rebuild his reputation.
“I completely understand Sophie’s point of view, especially being young and therefore dependent on wages. I just should have been more transparent with them from the start.
“I’m not running away from the fact that I owe money.
“I plan to live in this country for a very, very long time, so I realize it takes a little longer, but I’m working extremely hard to make sure everyone gets paid and that we can move on.”