This stylish icon is best known for her unique handbags.
Kate Spade started making handbags back in 1993 when she was bored with the purses she had in her closet. The Kansas City native was working as a senior fashion editor at Mademoiselle magazine and had an eye for design, which she put to good use making "sassy but classy" handbags. Soon, the fashion élite caught on her to her stylish nylon totes and stores like Neiman Marcus and Barneys started selling her bags. Spade’s stylish designs helped create a generation of handbag lovers, eager to tote her brightly-colored gems and whimsical totes on their arms, whether they were strolling down Worth Avenue in Palm Beach or at the grocery store in Tuscaloosa.
Her company continued to grow as more women traded in their "nothing black bags" for purses with loads of personality. In 1997, she launched a men's line designed by Andy, called Jack Spade, which made the boring old messenger bag a fashion must-have. Soon after they started creating journals, organizers, and adorable leather photo albums all under the motto of “Live Colorfully.” Two years later, the Spades sold 56% of their business to Neiman Marcus for $33.6 million, and partnered with Estée Lauder on perfumes and Lenox on homewares. Then in May 2017, Coach bought the brand for an incredible $2.4 billion dollars, which just proves how much people still love Kate Spade’s witty, whimsical designs.
While the Spades have since moved on, the company is still thriving with boutiques across the South—and around the world—selling everything from homewares to clothing to shoes to jewelry along with their still-brilliant handbags.
Here are a few things you may not know about Kate Spade, the woman who started it all:
1. Her style icons include Jackie Kennedy, Katherine Hepburn—and Icelandic singer Bjork, best known in fashion circles for wearing a dress shaped like a swan to the 2001 Oscars. It makes sense, if you think about it, because a swan dress isn’t too far from a bag shaped like a bunch of bananas or a taco truck, both of which have been included in Kate Spade’s whimsical collections. It’s all part of her love of designs that are "more personal, less serious," as she told the Boston Globe in 1999.
2. She was inspired by her mother’s collection of handbags, that she stored in her closet in Kansas City, Missouri. "She had clutches, oranges, pinks, chocolates, huge pearl buttons," she told TIME. When she was looking to build her own collection, she couldn’t find anything that lived up to her mother's collection, which is why she started making her own.
3. She made her first purse using burlap she purchased from a potato-sack manufacturer she “found in the Yellow Pages.” It’s a far cry from the stylish satin, nylon, and leather that are now used in the bags.
4. The classic black nylon bag that made her a household name, almost looked very different. As she told she told Forbes, the night before her first trade show, she couldn’t decide whether to put those iconic black labels "Kate Spade New York" labels on the inside of the bags or the outside, and spent hours moving them back and forth. They eventually landed on the outside of the bag, of course, and instantly became an iconic look.
5. Kate and Andy Spade have a new company called, Frances Valentine, named after their daughter, Frances. According to Racked, Kate has changed her name to Kate Valentine so that she can once again make a shoe and handbag line that is fun, stylish, and most of all, personal.