Kate Spade, 1962 – 2018

Designer Kate Spade inside her New York flagship store on May 28, 1996 in New York. Photo by Kyle Ericksen/Penske Media/REX/Shutterstock (6908970a)

Born in Kansas City on December 24, 1962, Katherine Bresnahan, was attending college when she met her future husband Andy Spade (brother of SNL actor David Spade). The idea of opening a  handbag company came from a casual conversation the couple were having one evening in a Mexican restaurant about how she liked simple tote bags. The couple were yet to be married when they decided to use the name ‘Kate Spade’ for marketing the bags — Kate became the designer and Andy, the creative director.

From a humble start-up in their apartment in 1992, annual sales reached $1.5 million by 1995 when they opened their flagship store in New York. In 1996 the Council of Fashion Designers of America gave Spade the “America’s New Fashion Talent in Accessories” award. By 1998, the company had $27 million in sales and the couple had opened their first store in Japan. Kate Spade bags were the fashion ‘must-have’ of the day.

The couple sold controlling interest in the business to the Neiman Marcus Group in 1999 but actively worked with the brand, which expanded into beauty products, eyeware, and even a fragrance. In 2006 the Spades sold the Kate Spade brand and within a year walked away from the company so Kate could devote her time to being a full time mother. In 2015 the Spades became partners in a new venture – a shoe and handbag brand called Frances Valentine.

Kate Spade died from suicide in her New York apartment on Tuesday, June 5.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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