A kate spade bag was a lot of things. During the late ’90s, when Prada nylon made its debut, the Kate Spade bag was of a simple rectangular shape, with two shoulder straps and a black fabric label with her name and the city she loved: Kate Spade New York. This bag was incredibly distinct and made such an impression on the fashion, consumer and retail audiences. They weren’t even leather, but were an absolute sensation. With Kate’s unfortunate recent passing, there was such an outpouring from women about how her bags were symbolic of a stylistic rite of passage. Fond memories were shared of their first Kate Spade bag – their first fashion item. I had two: a faux leopard print one and a black satin one. When worn on the shoulder, they sat in the perfect placement above the waistline. Only a woman who knows accessories would know of the magic of such placement.
Two years ago, I met Kate during her second lifetime in the business with her new brand, Frances Valentine. She had invited us to lunch at her studio in a beautiful sunlit space overlooking Bryant Park. We were in early business-partnership days and Kate wanted to personally meet the Lane Crawford team. There were flower arrangements everywhere; lunch was perfectly catered and served on plates with colourful designs. The furniture and decorative touches were all thoughtful and detail-oriented. It was a matter of good taste and we were reminded why Kate Spade the brand would see the success that it did. It all boils down to taste.
Kate came into the room with dark sunglasses on, apologising. Her friend had just passed. The sunglasses stayed on the entire meal. Bless her for making the effort to come; she could have just stayed in bed. She had such a presence in the room. She wasn’t leading all of the conversation, but her voice was strong, with a New York drawl. She was just missing a martini in hand. There wasn’t anything conventional about her. She was kind of glamorous from another era. Frances Valentine is an accessories collection that’s predominantly shoes with some handbags. They’re colourful and spirited, with chic silhouettes. I remember finding it odd that her colleagues weren’t particularly ginger with her emotional state. It seemed like just another ordinary day at the office. This was hard to digest when such animated shoes and photographs decorated the space. How different would it have been if she had a physical ailment that had visual signs: an open wound or a rash? The reaction would have run along the lines of “Let’s find you some help, immediately!” from a group of retail buyers who were complete strangers before this meeting.
Kate Spade had such a distinct vision and point of view that the industry saw the infinite possibilities and continued to invest in her name, even though she wasn’t involved. I’ve always wondered how she felt about that. Let us be reminded that checking in is key. Let’s make sure that love is felt and that the darkness and despair doesn’t take over. Let’s always make the time. The mind is incredibly strong and fragile. Asking for help is a step in the right direction. All of us can learn from this exchange.
This feature originally appeared in July/August print issue of #legend.