Katherine Noel Valentine Brosnahan Spade was a young female entrepreneur, who changed the way American women viewed fashion. At the turn of the 21st Century, she modified what it meant for a woman to look sophisticated and elegant, while also not spending exorbitant amounts of money.
The Kate Spade brand has always been a more affordable option, compared to its competition. As well as a Social Impact header, they strive to create conversations and safe environments for women everywhere.
History and Background
Kate Brosnahan was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1962. She lived with her two parents, who owned a road construction company. Along with her five siblings, Kate had enjoyed her childhood with her large family.
Unlike a lot of our other fashion-savvy designers, Kate had not always wanted to be a designer. When she was young, she was interested in being a television producer instead. This led her on her path to the University of Kansas. She later transferred from that school to Arizona State, where she met her future husband, Andy Spade.
In 1985, she graduated with a journalism degree. Taking this degree, she started working at Mademoiselle Magazine. Kate noted later that during her time at Mademoiselle, she saw that the accessories were “gaudy” and “unsophisticated”. Her time at the magazine company was a big move towards launching her brand and changing the way fashion is viewed.
Within the five years that Miss Brosnahan worked at Mademoiselle, she was promoted to Head of Accessories and Senior Fashion Editor. One of her co-workers was Andy Spade.
The Beginning of Kate Spade
In 1993, Andy Spade and Kate Brosnahan started their own handbag company. There was some debate about what to name the business since Kate and Andy were not married yet, but Kate Brosnahan was too clunky of a name to use.
Andy had suggested Kate Spade, and Kate agreed since she would be taking his name after their marriage anyways.
Their business started with one simple idea in mind, To make stylish, affordable handbags that could be seen as sensible and sophisticated. Once the name was founded, the designing phase started fast.
The very first Kate Spade bags to ever be made were constructed out of scotch tape and paper. It took them a while, but they finally found a factory that was willing to produce the bags and create their first official prototypes. There were six different bags total, and the couple paid for the production with Andy Spade’s 401k pension plan, which he pulled out from his copywriter job.
Picking Up Steam
After a showing in a local mall, Barney’s decided to take a leap of faith with the company and ordered a few of their bags. This inspired Kate’s first addition to their already air-tight idea. She moved their logo to the outside of the bag, so all would be able to see the label.
It was a bold idea and took the designer all night to pull it off. By the morning the label had been moved to the outside, and the bags were shipped off to be displayed at Barney’s.
Of course, it was a fantastic idea, because as we all know today, the iconic Kate Spade New York label on the outside of the bag is one of the most noticeable and noteworthy marks of a Kate Spade bag.
Their business started out of their apartment, shipping season causing them to even temporarily stay at their friends’ apartments since their place was full of boxes. The first Kate Spade store to open was in SoHo, a trendy district in New York. It was a small store, only 400 square feet. Their official headquarters was eventually located on West 25th Street, a 10,000 square foot building that was much better suited for the growing brand.
A Brand for Everyone
It wasn’t long before it seemed like everyone had a Kate Spade bag. Anna Wintour, the famous Vogue journalist, stated that when the Kate Spade label started, “everyone thought that the definition of a handbag was strictly European, all decades-old serious status and wealth.” People loved Kate Spade because it was affordable and stylish. Their bags were listed at 150-450 USD, which was incredibly lower than their competitors, like Burberry and Louis Vuitton.
The bags were noted to be “mature, without being too adult for a teenager.” This was a perfect description, given the uprise in their bags being seen all over high schools in America.
Ms. Wintour noted that it was impossible to walk a block in the city without seeing a Kate Spade bag.
Expanding the Love
Handbags weren’t where it ended. Kate Spade expanded into clothing, jewelry, shoes, and even baby accessories. Kate Spade was quickly starting to be an it brand. From their line of feminine watches to the sleek shoes, even baby clothes were branded with the iconic logo, and that made their babies cuter.
While Mrs. Kate Spade officially sold off all of her shares of the brand in 2006, she was still an icon and model for the company. She was one of the two founders, and her face and name were everywhere that the company was.
The Kate Spade brand had tried to extend its reach even more, with two branches, one called Kate Spade Saturday, and the other called Jack Spade. Both of them were niche ideas based on the sophistication Kate Spade held, but they were both closed in 2015.
In 2018, Mrs. Spade tragically died due to suicide. A few months prior, the wedded couple had begun living apart from each other, but this was not believed to be the reason for her death. Andy Spade has said in interviews that “We were not legally separated, and never even discussed divorce,” he said. “We were best friends trying to work through our problems in the best way we knew how.”
Mrs. Spade left behind a daughter, who was born in 2005. She left her daughter a note at the time of her death, although the information is not disclosed in what the letter said.
Kate Spade’s Many Awards
Below is a compiled list of some of Kate Spade’s many awards won:
- 1996 – America’s New Fashion Talent in Accessories
- 1998 – Best Accessory Designer of the Year
- 2004 – Giants of Design Award for Tastemaker
- 2004 – American Food and Entertaining Award for Designer of the Year
- 2004 – Elle Decor International Design Award for Bedding
- 2017 – Inducted into the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame at UoM
- 2017 – Most Creative People in Business
All About Kate Spade Bags
All Day Large Tote
The “All Day” large tote bag was a staple, especially in schools. This bag was huge for girls who didn’t want to carry around a backpack but still wanted the space to fit all of their school items. Its leather handles are sturdy, and shaped to fit over the shoulder with ease.
The Sam Bag
Originally released in 1993, the Sam Bag was a beautiful and sleek piece, with a rectangular bottom and wide sides that made the whole bag look like one seamless piece. It was perfect for all-day use and could be dressed up or down depending on the occasion.
The Spade Flower Jacquard Locket Shoulder Bag
For fans of a smaller, over-the-shoulder night bag, this sleek rectangular design is a perfect pop of pattern to accent any solid outfit. It features a chain handle, to match any gold accents your outfit may have.
Kate Spade Evelyn Shopper Bag
One of the newer Kate Spade releases, the Kate Spade Evelyn collection features a beautiful quilted leather shopper bag. It’s a great daytime piece, with lots of room to hold any errand-necessary materials or for a fun day out. It’s a great black piece that goes with everything.
Kate Spade Repair Information
Every Kate Spade bag comes with a one-year warranty. For any manufacturing defects, they ask you to contact them within this timeframe. They have an entire contact us form for you to fill out, and require valid proof of purchase at hand. Whether it be an original receipt or a bank statement.
For their other products, such as watches, their warranty extends to two years but still requires the issue to be a manufacturing error. As well, you need to have the required proof of purchase items; listed above.
Since Kate Spade bags are made out of different materials, there isn’t one cleaning routine that is recommended for them all. To be safe, make sure to do your research when looking into cleaning your Kate Spade bag, or trust a professional business to do it for you.
Kate Spade Trivia
- Kate Spade has always been a mental health advocate, and her business has always been very vocal about women in America’s needs.
- Kate Spade started another business after Kate Spade, and it was called Frances Valentine.
- Kate Spade Hayes Street
- Best Everyday Designer Bag – Fashionable + Durable
- Kate Spade Foster Court Tasha Tote in Aubergine Review