The death of Kate Spade was a sad shock to me yesterday. I just adored her and her personal style forever. It also hurt in part because she was one of us. She was an American girl, self-made and close in age to so many of us. She was just 55 years old, yet we sort of grew up with her and saw her rise to a household name. She made the accessory every woman needed cool and functional and attainable. She also created a lifestyle brand that was based not on money and status, but on simply enjoying life and finding the fun in it all.
Just Monday unbelievably I was going through a friend’s closet with her and we uncovered her Kate bags and reminisced about how cool they had been. They were of an era that seems so much simpler. The Kate Spade line was different as it bore the almost plain name of an American woman, and by design it was simple too. Those early bags were bare and uncomplicated and yet the height of chic when they first appeared. I remember saving for one of her bags and the exact day I walked into the San Francisco Neiman Marcus to make my purchase. It was a niche line back in the mid 90’s and Neimans was one of the first to carry Kate Spade.
I was young, at my first real job then and liked buying a bag by an American designer and one that few other people had. The Italian made bag was a thick brown shiny leather bag with one simple shoulder handle. The leather and lining were elegant and luxurious and the details were and are still are beautiful. Kate soon became known for her fabric totes- black and Neapolitan ice cream colored stripes being two of the best, and all the cool gals had them. Years later those same women became mothers and the Kate Spade nylon diaper bag became THE bag everyone wanted. What was nice was you could afford a Kate bag. They were pricey, but for the quality you felt it was justified. These were not $1,000 bags. They were bags that most women could aspire to and felt stylish carrying.
The ads for the line were always fantastic!
The sweet ads really reflect a particular age and time in a lot of people’s lives.
I owned five of Kate’s leather handbags over the years and one awesome canvas and orange leather beach tote with romantic writing that my pal Ani gave me. I carried them all for ages and got many compliments on their beauty over the years. Not one of those bags ever fell apart. In fact I recently parted with them under duress and the need to have less. I couldn’t part with the first one though. Except for the first, each of those bags were a gift for a special occasion. I would always ask my husband if we could go to the Kate store and he let me choose my own gifts for Mother’s Days, birthdays and so on. Those bags were all from the 90’s to the early 2000’s when Kate was still head of the company.
The designs were bright and lined with pretty fabrics and super functional. I felt stylish carrying them and yet they just worked wonderfully. In 2006 they sold off the company and it changed its quality and lost much of its nonchalant chic and quirky charm to me.