There’s no doubt that when someone from the world of fashion or show business passes away, we all feel a kind of void inside. The fashion industry has been such an important cultural reference throughout history that we obviously consider unique and creative figures as icons to look up to and their work as representative of a determined generation or period. That’s, of course, the case of fashion designer Kate Spade, who earlier today was found dead in her New York City home. Without giving too many details (because that’s not the point of this article), initial investigations point to suicide. But leaving aside the tragic part of the story, let’s talk about why Spade was such an important figure in the industry and why celebrating her legacy would be a better way to honor this entrepreneur who built an empire.
Kate Brosnahan was born in Missouri, Kansas, where she lived until she went to study at Arizona State University, where she got a degree in journalism in 1985. Right after graduating, she decided to try her luck in Manhattan, where she started working at the now extinct fashion magazine Mademoiselle. Here she worked as editor of the accessories department and learned all about the process of designing and selling fashionable pieces.
By 1991, she had already become the senior fashion editor and head of accessories, but she knew she could reach a higher place in the industry that the magazine wasn’t going to give her. After years of working in the magazine, she had realized that although fashion was moving fast in all ways, there still wasn't a solid market for fun and stylish handbags that could match the pace of fashion at the time.
That was when she decided to leave the magazine and start her own business alongside her husband, Adam Spade. In 1993, they founded Kate Spade New York and became a key referent for handbags, basically changing the game for this particular piece and starting a whole new market we have seen growing at a rapid pace. Their business was a huge success, and in 1994, they opened their first boutique in Soho.
In 1999, they sold 56% of the company to Neiman Marcus, and then in 2006, the remaining 44%. She wanted to start over with a new vision and name, and in 2016, she decided to launch a new brand called Frances Valentine. This new brand not only included her amazing and creative ideas for handbags, but also started focusing on other types of luxury accessories and footwear. In the past two years, she hadn’t been that involved in the industry but was still an active agent.
Throughout her career as a fashion designer, she received several awards, including America’s New Fashion Talent in Accessories in 1996, and the Best Accessory Designer of the Year in 1998, both by the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Last year, she was inducted into the University of Missouri’s Entrepreneur Hall of Fame. She managed to make a name for herself with her amazing creativity, and she’s definitely leaving a huge void in the history of fashion and the hearts of the people who loved her.
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