On June 5th, 2018 designer Kate Spade passed away.  She was only 55, and according to police, the cause of death appeared to be suicide.  She was an iconic American handbag designer, whose career actually started in journalism.  It was her husband Andy Spade who suggested that they start a handbag business, which they did in 1993.  Since then the brand has expanded from a single Soho store to 175+ international stores (as well as boutiques in hundreds of department stores).  Their product line has grown to include clothing, jewelry, home goods, paper products and more.  Who was Kate Spade, and why was she such an icon in American fashion?

My Kate Spade New York  

For the past several months, as I have been doing research for my posts, Kate Spade has come up again and again.  I love it when “two worlds collide” and Kate Spade encourages just that.  Her designs are playful yet sophisticated, luxurious but affordable, simple but incredibly creative.  Her signature design elements are polka dots, stripes, bows, and animal shapes.  These elements are whimsical and youthful, yet many women will tell you that their Kate Spade New York handbag was their coming-of-age style revolution, their first designer investment purchase.  She created the perfect combination of practical yet beautiful design.  

My first Kate Spade New York accessory was this wallet.  I remember it was back when I was skeptical of online shopping but knew that the brand would not let me down.  If you are looking for a wallet that is compact but has plenty of slots for cards, I recommend this Stacy more often than any other wallet.   

Kate Spade New York Stacey

Kate Spade Facts 

Some interesting facts about the designer:

  1. Kate’s husband, Andy Spade, is the brother of actor David Spade.  Kate is an aunt to Rachel Brosnahan, also known as the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (currently on Amazon Prime).  
  2. Kate and Andy sold their shares of Kate Spade New York to Neiman Marcus between 1999 and in 2006.  The brand is now owned by Tapestry (parent company of Coach and Stuart Weitzman).  Kate wanted to step away from the business to focus on her daughter, who was born in 2005.
  3. Kate’s estimated net worth was $150million at the time of her death.
  4. Kate changed her name to Kate Valentine Spade in 2016, when she launched a new handbag brand which she named Frances Valentine (after her daughter and some family members).  

What we don’t yet know is why this savvy businesswoman, this talented designer, this passionate mother, (allegedly) took her life.  To her fans, she was fun, humorous, and full of life. 

Kate Spade’s Legacy 

So what happens when a designer passes on?  Within 24 hours of the news of her death, the handbags offered on her Frances Valentine website were sold out.  Shoes are still available but seem to be selling out quickly, as well.  Since Kate Spade New York has been operating independently of the founders, it is likely to continue as normal, though I have noticed that many of its styles are now also sold out on websites.  What happens to the intellectual property, the copyright on her designs?  Well, it turns out that fashion cannot be copyrighted.  The U.S. copyright office considers fashion to be utilitarian, rather than art.  Still, we all know that there is a certain “je ne sais quois” about an iconic brand that makes it stand apart from its imitators.  Kate Spade created two brands that certainly stand out.

The company, Kate Spade New York, is displaying a simple heartfelt statement on their social media channels and in their storefronts.  Employees have been asked to refrain from showing anything else.  Fans, however, are flooding their social media feeds with tributes to the late designer.  For my Kate Spade tribute, take a look at my Instagram feed over the next week or so.  Let me know what you think of this iconic designer.  

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