Celebrating Kate Spade

Yesterday, we were struck with the incredibly sad news that Katherine Noel Frances Valentine, (known as Kate Spade) the global handbag and fashion designer, was found dead in her New York apartment aged 55 with signs of suicide being the cause of death. Spade was known in the industry for her one-of-a-kind whimsical charm that shone through her innocent, playful aesthetic. She touched so many hearts with her charismatic, empowering designs that carried women into adulthood. Here, we look back at some of the key moments that defined her incredible career.

Launching Her Brand, 1993
Kate started out as Accessories Editor at Mademoiselle, but after realising she couldn’t buy a bag that she truly loved and acknowledging a gap in the market, she set out to ‘design the perfect handbag’. With the encouragement and backing of her future husband, Andy Spade, Kate launched her eponymous collection, which featured the six styles which we now see as the brand’s signature designs.

New York Shop Opening, 1996
After three years of continual success, which led to the brand being stocked by retail giants such as Charivari, Barneys, Fred Segal, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale's, Kate had the security and purpose to open her very own shop in Soho, NYC. Industry insiders like Anna Wintour and Linda Wells were carrying Kate Spade bags, as were celebrities like Julia Roberts and Gwyneth Paltrow. She was fast becoming a fashion favourite.

Receiving the CFDA International Award, 1996
In the same year that she opened her first store, Kate earned her first accolade; the International Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America. She would later go on to win the award again in 1998. The CFDA paid tribute to Kate yesterday saying, “The CFDA is devastated to hear the news of our friend, colleague, and CFDA member Kate Spades’s tragic passing. She was a great talent who had an immeasurable impact on American fashion and the way the world viewed American accessories.”

Launching Jack Spade, 1996
It was a busy year for Kate and her brand; also in 1996, the American designer expanded her womenswear collection to include footwear, journals and other accessories whilst she also launched her first menswear accessories line, Jack Spade.

Neiman Marcus Group Buys 56% Stake, 1999
Although her and husband Andy continued to run the brand’s operations, the Neiman Marcus Group paid $33.6million to acquire a 56 percent stake in the Kate Spade brand. This led to Kate expanding into Asia and for Jack Spade to open its first store in NYC.

The Expansion Into Lifestyle, 2002
In 2002, Kate initially partnered with Estée Lauder on a range of fragrances but then additionally inked deals with Lenox in 2004 to expand in to homeware. A consistent amount of success and a continuing expansion in merchandise turned Kate Spade into something more than simply a fashion brand; it became a lifestyle brand.

KateSpade.com, 2004
After reporting $70million in sales in their 10-year anniversary, Kate Spade website was launched. Being completely ahead of her time, Kate was always at the forefront of digital acquisition in fashion, with many functions in her stores already being assisted digitally years before other brands turned their attention to technological advancements.

Liz Caliborne Inc. Buy Kate Spade, 2007
The birth of Kate’s child, Frances, made her consider life from a different perspective. In 2007, her and her husband sold the company for a reported €125million to Liz Calibourne Inc. The Spades left the company shortly after allowing them to focus on raising their new born daughter and for the brand to have the full attention it needed to continue its success. The brand flourished under its new owners and was bought by Coach in 2017 for €2.4billion.

Frances Valentine, 2016
After her 10-year long sabbatical from fashion, Kate returned with her husband Andy, and their business partners and friends Elyce Arons and Paola Venturi. They launched Frances Valentine, a range of shoes and accessories named after her daughter and previous family members.