The Legacy of Kate Spade

The Legacy of Kate Spade

The designer will be remembered as a critical figure who built an empire rooted in her understanding of culture.



The designer will be remembered as a critical figure who built an empire rooted in her understanding of culture.

Text: Gretty Garcia

Nostalgia is the cornerstone of humanity. The feeling that we get from places, foods, music, and objects–really, anything that brings us directly back to a time that could be described as nothing short of unadulterated bliss–connects people from all walks of life. For some, nostalgia is triggered through auditory experiences when a song from their childhood serendipitously plays when they least expect it. Other times, though, a wave of of nostalgia is forcibly washed over people when tragedy ensues. Countless individuals confronted the latter after hearing about the death of the cultural icon that was Kate Brosnahan Spade.

For many, Spade, too, was a connector of people from all walks of life. Her purposeful mission to bridge the gap between the quotidian and the opulent, between the practical and the aesthetic, led to the creation of a uniquely fluent, yet sophisticated brand. This mission could only be commenced by a pioneer proficient in the art of style and personhood so difficult to grasp if not a remarkably talented human being. A former accessories editor at the esteemed Mademoiselle, Spade conceived the brand in 1993 with six styles that addressed issues of modernity and timelessness in the form of a handbag that many of us own in our own collections to this day. Several of her later campaigns, the most recent of which was the “Black and White” SS18 campaign starring Margaret Qualley celebrating the brand’s 25th anniversary, underscored positivity and the pursuit of a colorful life amidst the monochromatic and mundane.

Though the company has gone through major phases of transition - in 1999, the designer and her husband, Andy Spade, sold 56% of the brand to Neiman Marcus for $33.6 million; in 2007, Liz Claiborne acquired the company that, at the time, was no longer attached to Kate Spade herself; and, in May 2017, Coach reported that it had plans to purchase the brand for $2.4 billion -  if one has the good fortune of walking into a Kate Spade store, now much more expanded as a brand, a sense of nostalgia is undeniably present.

Phrases and mottos from “Live Colorfully” to “Eat Cake for Breakfast” on otherwise simply structured bags encompasses the aspirational brand that created a space for women everywhere who felt empowered in a personal space just as much as in a professional space, and for those who could hold a cup of coffee throughout her morning meetings with just as much vigor as she could hold a glass of wine at her evening dinners and parties.

For many women everywhere, one of their first bags - one that brings about innately nostalgic sentiments - was designed by Kate Spade. With the loss of a woman who so greatly understood women should be remembered all of the positivity that she spread through her brand.

Kate Spade amongst a wall featuring her handbags in 1999

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