In August of this year, Kate Spade is launching a set of clutches based on "classic book covers" such as The Great Gatsby, Emma, The Importance of Being Earnest, Great Expectations, and A Tale of Two Cities. "The brand will release the 'volumes' one at a time as a sort of Book-of-the-Month Club"*. However these handbags aren't launching without controversy...
Not that long ago, French designer Olympia Le-Tan, launched a collection of clutches called You Can't Judge a Book by its Cover in Autumn of 2009. Obviously Olympia is not happy with Spade's choice of bags and feels that the design house has copied her style.
Le Tan is passionate about books, something which was ingrained during her childhood by her book collector father. She was inspired by her favourite first edition classic covers such as The Catcher in The Rye, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Moby Dick, 1984 as well as 17 other covers.
Le Tan's bags are close copies of the original first editions and it's undeniable that more craft have gone into their creations compared to Spades - for a start Le Tan only made 16 bags for each 21 covers; each made of embroidered silk with colorful felt appliqué. Spade's are new illustrated versions of their books and printed to look worn and will obviously be massed produced. But I have to say, that I don't think the idea was 'stolen' from Le Tan - the outcome is very different: differently crafted, different book covers and I'm guessing a very different price tag - although the retail price of Spade's bags haven't been disclosed yet I'm imagining that they will be the more 'affordable' of the two as Le Tan's bags cost $1,500.
I googled 'book bags' and got copious results for etsy shops and crafters. As the saying goes (and I don't entirely agree with it): there is no such thing as a new idea and Olympia and Mrs Spade are certainly not the first nor the last to have the same idea and it seem that for years people have been transforming books into bags. Michelle Pulis, a young designer who has been creating bag tomes out of actual books since 2008:
Here’s a lovely book tote bag designed by Lizania Cruz, that will unzip to become a handy shopping bag. Lizania creates many beautiful items for Anthropologie.
However I can see why Le Tan feels this way; her collection came out very recently and these gorgeous literary purses are her livelihood whereas Kate Spade is a much bigger cog and doesn't need the cash. If I were Le Tan I would take it as a compliment and reel from the amount of press this issue has received. If I could afford it, I would certainly choose a bag that had been handcrafted by a smaller fashion house over a mass produced one as it's more individual, and I'm sure she hasn't had a shortage of interest. Despite this all, I'm still a big fan of Kate Spade (and even her husband's shop - Jack Spade - is gorgeous too) and I constantly enjoy the visual feast I encounter every time I walk into the stores!
(*) Quoted from the Vanity Fair online article.
Images of the Kate Spade collection also sourced from this article.