Words by Angie Jachniw
June 8th, 2018
Notorious for being the women’s inaugural designer handbag, Kate Spade’s empire was built upon marrying feminine “clever wit” and bold, utilitarian design. For some, Spade’s enterprise provoked a certain nostalgia, as a large audience has remained loyal to the brand since her debut in 1996. To others, her bags commemorate a lifestyle shared and celebrated amongst women all over the world.
Apart from her handbag line, which was ultimately absorbed by Coach Inc. in 2017, Spade and her husband-turned-business partner, Andy, made ripples throughout the fashion scene from the beginning. Their once niche presence in a big arena gained momentum upon the introduction of their home goods, stationery products and loungewear lines in the mid-2000s. What started as a yearning for an “unfussy handbag” came to unfurl iconic partnerships with Williams & Sonoma, Nordstrom and Macy’s. Soon, the queen of bold simplicity became a household name, appealing to generations transcending from grandmother to granddaughter alike. However, with each expansion, Spade made sure to stay true to her feminine whim and initial mission. She would eventually become notorious for being the brain behind quotes like, “She had a cocktail in her hand and confetti in her hair”; and, “She leaves a little sparkle wherever she goes.” Such expressions have since served as anthems to women everywhere, reminding them to be every bit as confident as they are tenacious.
Following the Spades’ immediate success in the 1990s, the couple decided to sell the majority of their share to The Neiman Marcus Group. This allowed them the opportunity to remain involved in the creative development of the brand, while providing room for additional ventures. Entirely separate from her growing self-named empire came the birth of accessory and shoe line, Frances Valentine. Inspired by both of her grandfathers, the project was intended to contrast her initial aesthetic of playful utilitarianism. Frances Valentine took on a more mature voice, shedding the bright pops of colour so infamously associated with the designer’s success. Instead, loafers and boots were crafted of muted, earthy leathers best suited for business professionals. Although Frances Valentine has yet to reach the volume of recognition that Kate Spade had grown to know, the project proved that no designer with a dream can be stifled by expectations.
In honour of her short, but timeless contribution, here is a timeline of Kate Spade’s most instrumental designs– leaving their marks on hearts and in closets forever.
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