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Is Kate Spade Racist?


Hey guys, one of my loyal readers sent this in and I wanted to share her story with you all so that we can have a conversation about racism in retail management, particularly in Ottawa, something that I’ve experienced as well. Please note, the asterisk (*) indicates that the name of the individuals involved have been changed to protect their identities.

“Dear Avah,

I wanted to share my story with you in hopes of preventing it from happening to someone else. Not too long ago I received a phone call from a district manager for Kate Spade regarding a management position at their newly opened Ottawa store. The phone interview went swell by all accounts and I was promptly invited for a formal interview two days later. Being that I already have a full-time job, I agreed to interrupt my work schedule because she was flying in for the day from Toronto to do interviews. Since I work in the west end of the city, I had to travel 30 minutes by bus to meet her downtown. In order to make sure that I got there on time, I asked to leave work 45 minutes early, which as you can imagine had caused conflict. I knowingly took this risk based on how enthusiastic Michelle* was to meet with me on such short notice.

When I got downtown, it started pouring so I had to take a taxi to the location. I had never met Michelle* before that day so after I arrived at the coffee shop I called the Kate Spade store at Yorkdale in Toronto to ask for her description. After I noticed who she was, I sat down and waited for her to finish the interview she was doing. By that time, she had also noticed me and based on the time could tell I was there to meet her. This would also be the first time she became aware of the fact that I was a Black woman as our initial conversation was by phone. Well, Michelle* made me wait almost 40 minutes without acknowledging my presence and that was the first red flag that something was wrong. I didn’t think much of it then until I sat down with her and she immediately told me she had a plane to catch so could not conduct the interview. 

I kept it professional and smiled through the whole ordeal hoping that my instincts were wrong. In an effort to give her the benefit of the doubt, I waited a few days before reaching out to her again at the Yorkdale location. When I called the store the following week to speak with her, I was placed on hold and then asked to identify myself. After I did, I was placed on a brief hold and then told that Michelle* couldn’t take my call because she was in a meeting and would be for the remainder of the day. I then left my full name and contact information for her to call me back and I never heard from her again. That was almost two months ago before the Kate Spade store opened at the Rideau Centre.

The other day, while walking through Rideau, I decided to stop and check out the store. Not only was I not greeted by any of the staff but I was also the only Black person in the store. On top of that, to my surprise, Michelle* was there and she completely ignored me. We made eye contact when I entered the store and on my way out of the store and both times she quickly looked away to avoid having a conversation with me. After that last encounter, I realized my skin color was an issue and that Kate Spade was not an equal opportunity employer.”

What are your thoughts? Do you have a similar story to share? Like our Facebook page and leave your comments on Ashley’s* story.

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