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The Brand Vultures – Keds & Co.
(Response included)

avatarBy Chime Tenzing
Tuesday, Jun 22, 2010
One Comment

Keds’ new-fangled line of sneakers called ‘Tibetan Buddhist Shoes’ bearing images of the Dalai Lama, the Buddha, holy mantras, Tibetan national flag and other sacred images is a gross denigration of the faith which has millions of followers around the globe!

The disparaging act of Keds’ consumerist attitude has hurt the sentiments of millions of Buddhists around the globe with its new line of “Colorful and Beautiful” canvas shoes .Keds’ blatant attempt to capitalize on the growing ‘fad’ for Buddhism & reverence for the Dalai Lama in the West failed to gauge the consequences of its myopic vision, which was the result of its profit-centric, market driven strategy and greed for easy and quick bucks! It has nauseatingly overlooked the importance of respecting the values and ideals of the faith which has a growing follower’s world over during this time of crises of all sorts in the history of mankind! This is how Keds’ chose to reward the Holy Man who tirelessly travels across the globe to preach global peace and universal harmony!

As rightly pointed out by one of my fellow Buddhist brothers – Bhuchung D. Sonam – “ We live in a 24×7 interconnected world where information is available at finger’s click. Thus people at Keds cannot feign ignorance about these sacred images and their importance in Buddhist culture and their roles in the practice of the dharma. Hence Keds’ Buddhist shoes are affront to Tibetans and a total disregard to their cultural values”. In the Buddhist context, Keds has committed an unpardonable sin by taking the sacred images of Buddha, the Dalai Lama and the holy Buddhist scripts out from their rightful places to the grubby American feet and neon-lit streets. With this single act of sacrilege and blasphemy, Keds has invited the wrath of the irate deities and would inescapably earn bad karmas for the future of its much treasured company.

Instances like this is not uncommon to the common men. In the recent past, the famed Indian painter M.F.Hussain had to face the wrath of the Indian Hindus for his paintings that allegedly denigrated the Hindu gods and goddesses. The irate and the devout Hindus charged against him as “in the name of artistic freedom Hussain had painted Hindu gods and goddesses in a manner, which deeply hurt the sentiments and sensibilities of patriotic Indians”. Apart from a complete ban on his paintings in India, Hussain had to flee home to Qatar on a self-imposed exile for the fear of his life. This clearly, like Keds’, is the consequence of the myopic vision Hussain was cursed with when he used his “creative freedom” at the cost of others!

Also, not so long time ago, we were all inundated and fed by the headlines and controversy surrounding the controversial Danish cartoon on Prophet Muhammad. At that time the news piece that most of us read and re- read went something like this – Much ink and, unfortunately, some blood has already been spilled over the Danish cartoon controversy. The controversy burst ‘out of proportion’ to the extent that it had claimed some precious lives in the crossfire that ensued. The Danish editors should have known—in fact did know—that the drawings would provoke an outcry in the Muslim world. However, again like Keds’, the editor saab somehow overlooked the consequence and eventually ended up paying a heavy price!

There are instances in the past as well about Christians suing art gallery over ‘blasphemous’ statutes of Jesus Christ. To share with you one instance, the sculpture of Christ with an erection by a Chinese artist Terence Koh was charged with denigrating Christ and outraging public decency. Emily Mapfuwa, a 40-year-old Christian who was offended by the artwork, launched a private prosecution against the gallery for outraging public decency and causing harassment, alarm and distress to the public. Mapfuwa argued that the Baltic would not have dared depict the prophet Muhammad in such a way. But the Christian Legal Centre – an organization that aims to “promote and protect the biblical freedoms of Christian believers in the United Kingdom” – agreed to pay her legal costs!

Unlike people from other respectable creed, the Buddhists may be inherently grounded in the philosophy of Ahimsa and non-violence, but that doesn’t mean we are less human beings and thus less sentimental. The dishonorable precedent set by Keds would not only provoke Buddhist brothers and sisters, but it will also stir the sentiments of every sane religious practitioner of all the faiths in the world .As a self-effacing and a humble Buddhist myself, I forewarn Keds not to tread on the dirty path lest it should face a similar consequence meted out to the culprits as cited in the above instances. While I beseech and implore to the brand vultures at the Keds not to hurt the sentiments of the millions of Buddhist the world over, I urge my fellow Buddhist and Tibetans, especially in America, to call it quits for all that Keds has to offer for you to cover up your ‘unholy’ feet with their ‘holy canvas shoes’!

Response from Keds

Dear Mr. Tenzing,

Thank you for your email that we received this morning. However, we wanted to let you know that a week ago after receiving a similar email from Heidi Minx, , who was representing the India-based Buddhist Community, we took the following action.
Upon receiving that email on Monday, we informed of the issue and requested that they immediately remove these shoes from their ecommerce site. I am pleased to report that the team responded quickly and complied fully with our request — and a total of about 145 designs were eliminated from the site on Monday and are no longer available for purchase. Can you please advise which shoes you are referring to?

It’s important for you and the international Buddhist community to understand that Keds did not design the styles in question nor were the shoes available for sale on any of our company’s websites: or the Keds Collective (also at
The PRO-Keds and Keds shoes — with their blank canvas uppers — are at the center of a new trend in sneaker customization. The styles in question were designed by other individuals using an independent third-party sneaker customization website called is a separate ecommerce forum that utilizes PRO-Keds and Keds product to offer its sneaker customization capability, allowing individuals to create their own unique designs on sneaker products.

While Keds and PRO-Keds shoes are available on, the sale and design content of the shoes is directly managed and controlled by, who is responsible for screening all designs submitted through for inappropriate content. However, as the product bears our mark, we do take responsibility for ensuring that our brand is represented in a way consistent with our brand values.
In addition to ensuring these shoes have been removed from the site, we are currently renegotiating our contract with to incorporate additional measures to preclude any similar type of content from being placed on Keds or PRO-Keds branded shoes. While our partnership with presents a unique opportunity to build our brand and to reflect individual style and creativity, and Keds are ever mindful of the potential for some individuals to step beyond the bounds of appropriate creative expression. We are confident that the steps being taken will address this going forward.

We sincerely apologize for any discomfort this situation may have caused to the international Buddhist community. Please help spread the word among the Buddhist community that the Keds brand team acted quickly in this matter — as did the team — and these shoes are no longer for sale at


Kristin Kohler Burrows

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One Comment »

  • avatar JamieS says:

    I think you (Chime Tenzing) owe Ms. Burrows and apology.

    Your complaint contained allusions to incidents involving threats, violence, and intimidation–allusions in which you later referred to victims as “culprits.” You likened the people running Keds to such “culprits,” suggesting that they may become victims of such intimidation themselves.
    That is a very threatening tone to take and, I would have thought, an inexcusable one.
    If you did not mean to be threatening or to imply sympathy with people who commit threats and engage in intimidation, you may want to consider clarifying your stance.

    You say that Keds ” . . . overlooked the importance of respecting the values and ideals . . .” of Buddhism.
    Respect for ideals and values can only be meaningfully given when one understands what those values and ideals are. (And those ideals and values must be worthy of respect in order to get any). Most Americans know very little about Buddhism, and you earn Buddhism no respect by posting a petulant rant (especially about what seems such a trivial issue) in its name.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wash my “grubby American feet.”

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