Jide Zeitlin, chairman and CEO of Kate Spade, Coach and Stuart Weitzman parent Tapestry Inc., is speaking up against racial inequality as national unrest grows following the death of George Floyd, the latest in a string of unarmed black men to be killed by law enforcement.
In a personal post on Linked In, the black executive talked about his own experience spending a summer in apartheid South Africa — and the lessons that have stuck with him.
“I sat down several times to write this letter, but stopped each time. My eyes welling up with tears. This is personal. Over this weekend, over this last week, over a lifetime punctuated by sweltering summers of discontent,” Zeitlin wrote in the letter addressed to employees.
The CEO said that a number of Tapestry’s stores had been damaged, including outposts in New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Charleston, S.C. and Scottsdale, Ariz. After determining that his staff was safe, Zeitlin said his thoughts turned to the looters.
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“What was going through their minds as they acted? Has our society truly left them with little to lose and few other ways to force the rest of us to come to the negotiating table?” he wrote. “We can replace our windows and handbags, but we cannot bring back George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Emmett Till, and too many others. Each of these black lives matter.”
A 46-year-old unarmed black man, Floyd was killed on May 25 in Minneapolis by white police officer Derek Chauvin. His death has reignited the national conversation around police brutality and systemic racism — leading to protests from coast to coast. These protests have been peaceful for the majority, but some looting has occurred, particularly during the late-night hours.
Zeitlin said Tapestry is working through a longer-term plan to address systemic inequality, including in health, economic opportunity and public safety in response to recent events.
“We understand that we are better together when different life experiences and perspectives allow us to develop ideas and products that none of us could have come up with on our own,” wrote Zeitlin. “As brands whose core values are powerfully informed by the creative tension that cannot exist without diversity and inclusion, we cannot succeed if the ideal that is America does not succeed, including in different and diverse ways globally.”
Tapestry is one of many companies in the fashion and footwear space taking a stand for racial injustice in the wake of Floyd’s death — including both brands and retailers that have consistently spoken up on social issues as well as those who have traditionally remained silent.
After taking the reins at Tapestry in fall 2019, Zeitlin made a commitment in March to remain onboard for the next three years. Before taking over the CEO spot, Zeitlin had been chairman of Tapestry’s board since November 2014 — and he has more than 30 years of global financial and operational experience.