Kate Spade Digs Out From Controversy

The well-known fashion company, Kate Spade, is under fire following the release of a limited edition bag. The bag is an abbreviation of Kate Spade New York highlighting their signature “spade” logo but Tweeters noticed it appears to read “I Love Kony” instead. This, of course, spurred many angry Tweeters who were offended due to the reference to controversial Joseph Kony and 2012’s The Invisible Children campaign. The company announced Oct 22 that it plans to pull all existing bags from stores and discontinue the bag’s production.

The bag featured an abbreviation of the Kate Spade brand.

The bag featured an abbreviation of the Kate Spade brand but was interpreted spelling “Kony” instead .

Group SJR, the Hill + Knowlton Strategies company that represents the brand, issued a quick and concise statement:

“This bag was designed as a celebration of kate spade new york, using the abbreviation of our name, kate (spade) new york. We regret the interpretation of this tote’s design and apologize for any misunderstanding. We take customer feedback seriously and are actively working to withdraw these items from our stores and wholesale partners.”

While most Tweeters realized the harmless mistake, many couldn’t get over how obvious the design looked.


The apology seemed the only way to deal with the unfortunate incident. Making the situation worse is that Joseph Kony is still alive and leading the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) despite the 2012 guerrilla campaign.

Do you think Kate Spade handled the situation correctly? How would you have handled it? Was this unintentional controversy a serious enough PR issue to merit the discontinuation of the bag completely? Does Kate Spade need to address how this design was overlooked in the first place?

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7 Responses to Kate Spade Digs Out From Controversy

  1. Marcela Palefsky says:

    I believe Kate Spade acted graciously in the way they handled this PR situation. Although they only aimed to represent their abbreviated brand name and truly had no desire to offend people with their design, they unfortunately did. Luckily, the brand was quick to listen to what was being said on social media and the web about people’s reactions to their design. By pulling the bag from their retail stores and online, they demonstrate respect for consumers’ views and opinions. Their apology admitted their faults and addressed their interest in aligning with customer feedback. I don’t think they could have handled it any better.

  2. Hailey Paquette says:

    Completely pulling the bag seems extreme. While this clearly is an issue that needs to be addressed, perhaps they could have redesigned it so that the bag does not read “KONY” instead of pulling it completely. I think the bigger problem that they need to look into is how a product with a problem this obvious made it into stores.

  3. Fernando Aguilar says:

    The company should have validated with consumers the implications of the message provided. I have no doubt that they did at some point, but I guess a very exhaustive exam had to be in place in order to ensure the success of the product in terms of sales and the reputation of the company.

  4. Maja Cakarun says:

    I feel that the situation was not handled well, especially taking into account that the Kate Spade brand is popular, which means that the company has experience. And hopefully, professionals in the PR Division. Before releasing new products, a company should test it on a focus group. It seems that they have not done it, since it is obvious that first thing that comes to mind is Kony, not Spade. Withdrawal of the bags was the only smart solution.

  5. Janslle Ong says:

    I think that Kate Spade handled the situation correctly as they apologized as well as withdrew the bags from the store. They listened to what their customers told them and reacted immediately; that is what a good company should place value in. They do, however, need to address the issue of how they overlooked the design and should conduct an internal probe to prevent this type of situation in the future.

  6. Katlyn Orton says:

    I really don’t see how this bag made it to the shelves without anyone realizing the KONY connection. I understand that they had no intention of it, but I would assume it was a team of people who makes and approves designs so I just find it odd that no one realized it. With that being said, I do think that they handled it the best they could. Like you said, a simply apology is all they really could do. I think that anything more dramatic would have drawn more attention to the situation than necessary. Finally, I don’t think that the bag had to be completely discontinued. While I see why they did it, I think enough people would realize that that’s not what it meant. People still may like the design and could buy if they wanted to or not. I don’t think this was as big of a deal as the media likes to make things. Great post Lauren!

  7. Charlotte Das says:

    If I was in this position I would have definitely discontinued the bag. The design is so easily misinterpreted that it just makes you wonder how it wasn’t caught before these purses were distributed. I assume these designs go through many different sets of eyes before the design is set in stone. How did no one catch this? Even though it is a pretty pathetic mistake, I’m sure the damage won’t last, because the company clearly does not “love Kony.” Their statement was very short and to the point, but it addressed what needed to be discussed and the bags were pulled from stores. I think this is all you can do in a situation like this, where it is clearly an unintentional mistake.

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