Designer Spotlight: Kate Spade (1962-2018)

When I was in my 20s, fresh out of college, my college roommate showed up on my doorstep touting her brand new handbag.  My mouth dropped.  She was carrying a Kate Spade bag.

She said it was a graduation present from her mom and grandmother.

To someone fresh out of college, barely able to afford rent, seeing a designer bag on the shoulder of a friend causes major bag envy.  I could not afford a bag between $100-$400.  And guess what?  It would take another ten years before I could get my very first Kate Spade bag.

In my 20s, Kate was a dream.  In my 30s, I didn’t get just one bag, I got five, because I could finally afford her.  Don’t get me started on the stationary line!  In my early 40s, I added clothes, shoes and jewelry.  To have a wardrobe meant Kate Spade had a prominent right to a space in that closet.

But as time moves on, business plans change.  Coach (a brand I refuse to buy) bought out the Kate Spade brand last year, tried to put an end to the online flash sales (the sales that allowed so many women the opportunity to buy a Kate Spade bag), and started pulling the bags from shelves at department stores.  As a result of this takeover and how they treated the Kate Spade brand, Coach shares dropped 14% just one month after buying the brand out for $2.4 billion.

Just add that to one of those reasons why I refuse to buy Coach.  With their acquisition, it meant my Kate Spade shopping days would come to an end.

[Since someone will ask what is wrong with Coach.  I do not like to carry what everyone else is carrying.  Everybody has a Coach bag.  Even with Kate Spade, the majority of people usually choose to carry Coach over Kate Spade.  So I’ll go with Kate Spade over Coach.  It’s like Louis Vuitton in NYC.  Everyone has a Louis (even I do).  But I would rather carry my Fendi over my Louis any day, because everyone carries a Louis in NYC.  Kind of goes along with the argument: If your friend jumps off a bridge…  If everyone else is carrying it, am I going to be like everyone else or stand out on my own?]

Learning of Kate Spade’s death really made me sad.  She was a brilliant designer.  She really helped bring out the girly girl in me.  I wanted to hug all of my Kate Spade at home and love them just a little bit more as my way of remembering her and the little bit of happiness she brought to me every single day.  She was a dream to me for so many years.

I remember when I was in my 20s, standing in Saks Fifth Avenue staring at the Kate Spade bags on the shelves.  I could not afford anything in that store.  But during my lunch hours, I would walk around Saks and Neiman Marcus making a mental wish list of what my life would be like if I made more money.  I would own a Kate Spade bag and a Fendi baguette.

I would ask the ladies behind the counters to let me see one of the bags up on the wall behind them.  Sometimes all I wanted to do was just hold one, study it, before giving it back and saying to myself, “Someday.”

That bag my friend brought over…I found a similar bag with a dragonfly where the logo would go for $9 and carried that bag for years.  It was like Kate Spade, but it wasn’t.  The dragonfly represented the Kate Spade June Lane dishes I’ve been lusting over for the last 15 years.  During those starvation years when I worked for the Attorney General, I liked to pretend it was my starter bag…the bag like Kate Spade’s bag that would one day lead me to a real authentic Kate Spade handbag.

It wasn’t until I moved to NYC that I could make all of those dreams come true of owning all of the fashion I dreamed of owning someday.  That’s the crazy thing about New York.  For the right dreamers, it is a place where you can make every single one of your dreams come true.  Kate Spade was one of those dreamers.  She made her dream come true here.

In 1998, Forbes released an article on Kate Spade’s beginnings.  On the eve of her first trade show, she got this idea to put the label on the outside of the bag.  So she spent all night sewing them on.  The next day, Barneys ordered 18 bags, but told her to sew the labels back on the inside.

Incidentally, a Vogue editor saw the bags at the trade show too and decided to feature the bag in their magazine WITH the label on the outside.  This is what making something go viral looked like back in the old days…before the internet and social media took over.  So guess what Barneys had to do?  They had to call her back and ask for more bags with the label on the OUTSIDE of the bag.

Her instincts paid off.

What Kate’s story tells us is that despite what the world tells you, listen to your instincts and follow your dreams.  Stay true to yourself.  Believe in your dream.  That’s what she did.  She took chances on her impulses and she created a whimsical and beautiful empire.

I will never understand the reasoning of selling her namesake, but for most of us, we were buying a piece of Kate Spade’s dream.  Her dream brought so much happiness to so many of us.  We were proud to wear her name.  Every single thing that women are afraid to say they love, but they do (like glitter), she let us know that we are never too old to let our inner child shine.  She gave us glitter, shine, pastels, sophistication, fun…but also that 1950s housewife vibe…even if we never become housewives.

Ms. Spade, thank you for the last 25+ years of your namesake.  You brought so much happiness to so many women.  That, right there, should have earned your wings.  Your beauty and creativity will be greatly missed.  If God decides you should continue to create up there in heaven, just make sure you stay true to who you are.

My prayers are with her family and friends as they grieve the loss of this beautiful visionary.

Perfectionist Wannabe Shop – Spotlight on Kate Spade