Kate Spade revolutionized fashion and empowered women around the world
Legendary designer Kate Spade was found dead in her New York City apartment on Tuesday but her contributions to the world of fashion will never to be forgotten
Black leggings were a peculiar fashion in the '90s when fashionistas moved from flamboyant to functional, but what made up for the sure in dark apparels were bright and colorful handbags, particularly those by Kate Spade.
The collection appealed to modern women of the '90s who were making their own mark in their career and wanted to look professional and chic. This set of designer bags were the calling for girls who were setting foot into adulthood and carrying this handbag meant they had already become someone they aspired to be. That is how most women recall their first Kate Spade bag.
Soon after the news of her death on Tuesday in an apparent suicide broke, many celebrities and individuals took to social media to remember their first Kate Spade handbag.
The woman making bags for the new American women was Kate Noel Brosnahan, a graduate of Arizona State University with a degree in journalism. Born on December 24 in 1962, Kate was raised in Kansas City, Missouri by her father who worked in construction and her mother who raising her and her five siblings.
She moved to New York City after her graduation in 1985 to pursue her magazine career and soon enough became a senior fashion editor specializing in accessories at Mademoiselle magazine.
What suddenly made her jump from an editor to become a world-class designer was her frustration with the kind of gaudy handbags that were reigning in the era. In a 1999 interview with the Boston Globe, Kate said she was unimpressed with the handbag options she was seeing come through the magazine's fashion closet. "I was looking for something that could be less serious. More personal," she said. "I also wanted timelessness."
In an interview with The New York Times, she said she wanted “a functional bag that was sophisticated and had some style.” So in 1993, she launched her own handbag line with her then-boyfriend Andy Spade, using the $35,000 Andy had in his savings account.
By 1995, Kate Spade & Co. was worth $1.5 million according to Forbes and had its own stand-alone store in New York City. Years later, the store expanded and, in 1999, the Spades launched their men's line, Jack Spade. The Neiman Marcus Group had purchased 56 percent of the Kate Spade brand for $33.6 million.
In 2006, they, along with their other business partners, sold the remaining 44 percent of Kate Spade New York to Neiman Marcus and Kate decided to take a step back and focus on her daughter Frances Beatrix, who was born in February 2005.
Forbes reported that Kate and Andy made roughly $46.5 million from that deal. The Spades officially walked away from the Kate Spade brand in 2007.
In 2016, however, Neiman Marcus sold Kate Spade to Liz Claiborne for about $124 million and that again was sold to Coach for $2.4 billion in 2017.
Looking back at the designs Kate created for her line, it is not hard to see the vision she had of modern women. In her interview with the Time Magazine in 2004, she stated that the inspiration first came from her mother's collection. "She had clutches, oranges, pinks, chocolates, huge pearl buttons," Kate said. Her own twist was the functionality and practicality of the bag.
The most iconic bag Kate Spade created was in 1993 called the "Sam" bag which was a box-like nylon bag that had a sporty slant. The collection was relaunched in January 2018 for the 25th anniversary of the 1990s "it" bag. Then Kate experimented with metallic leopard prints and bold contrasting colors. Impressed by the style, Barneys and Fred Segal were the first department stores to place orders for the designs.
The price for Kate Spade handbags ranged from $100 to $400, making them more attainable status symbols than their $2,000 equivalents from Fendi, Chanel or Prada.
“Kate Spade had an enviable gift for understanding exactly what women the world over wanted to carry,” Anna Wintour, the editor in chief of Vogue and artistic director of Condé Nast, said in a statement. “There was a moment when you couldn’t walk a block in New York without seeing one of her bags, which were just like her; colourful and unpretentious.”
But, who knew, the person creating the most colorful bags for the cosmopolitan women of the era was fighting her own demons that left her in a deep depression. Kate's older sister Reta Saffo said she believed Kate suffered from bipolar disorder, writing, "It finally took its toll on her. A very tragic and sad ending to the life of a very colorful and delightful being." She also said that she "tried numerous times to get her help" and that the suicide was "not unexpected."
The 55-year-old dynamic fashion designer was found dead by her housekeeper in her Manhattan apartment, according to New York Police Department. A suicide note was found at the scene where Kate addressed her daughter, Frances Beatrix Spade, in the note, according to two NYPD sources. The note is said to have read; "Bea — I have always loved you. This is not your fault. Ask Daddy!"
It has been reported that Kate Spade was having relationship problems with her longtime husband and business partner Andy. TMZ reported that Kate Spade fell into depression days before hanging herself because her husband – who had moved out of their Park Avenue home — sought a divorce. It was further reported that the designer did not want her 24-year marriage with Andrew to end.
Two years ago, Kate and Andy announced they were developing a shoe and handbag line called Frances Valentine named after their daughter and some of Kate's family members. Kate even legally changed her name to Kate Valentine Spade. According to The Richest, as of 2018, Kate's net worth was $150 million.
Her name and her brand has given so much to modern-day women that, soon after her demise, social media took her legacy a step forward by recalling their first Kate Spade bag. For example, Melanie Benjamin made a pact saying if her book "The Aviator's Wife" hit the New York Times Best Seller list, she'd buy herself her first Kate Spade bag. Because the bag was a tangible symbol of accomplishment, many women have bought themselves their very own Kate Spade.
Kate was the designer who brought colors into womens' lives but, for those who knew her, she painted those very colors in their lives. Andy said in various interviews that all the quirky colors on her eponymous label was an extension of Kate’s personality, cheerfulness and at ease. As the actor Mindy Kaling tweeted on Tuesday: “You couldn’t walk into her boutiques and not smile.”