NEW YORK, June 6, 2018 (AP) - Bright. Vibrant. And, most essentially, fun.
The same words used so often to describe Kate Spade’s enormously popular handbags - “It” bags that were both aspirational and affordable - were an apt description of the woman herself, say many in the fashion world. And that only contributed to the sense of shock and loss in the industry upon hearing the news Tuesday that Spade had apparently taken her own life at 55.
“She was always just as happy and delightful as her collection was,” said Fern Mallis, industry consultant and former director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America during Spade’s rise to success in the 1990s. “She was every bit the representation of that brand, and the fun of it all.”
Indeed, Spade had said it herself: “I hope that people remember me not just as a good businesswoman,” she told Glamour magazine in 2002, “but as a great friend — and a heck of a lot of fun.”
Spade was found hanged in the bedroom of her Park Avenue apartment Tuesday morning in an apparent suicide, law enforcement officials said.
Spade liked to say that she wasn’t obsessed with fashion, or interested in trends. She tried jeans, for example, decided they didn’t look good on her, and moved on. “I grew up in the Midwest, where you have to have (a fashion item) because you like it, not because you’re supposed to have it,” she told the AP in 2004. “It’s an adornment, not an obsession.”
And a Kate Spade bag was an adornment that was, crucially, affordable, unlike other iterations of “It” bags whose status seemed to hinge on the price tag. “It was a real shift,” Mallis said. “Everybody had Kate Spade bags. You could afford them, and happily buy more than one. They were affordable AND terrific AND fabulous.”
Having a Spade bag “was a sign that you were in the know,” said Eric Wilson, fashion news director at InStyle. “You associated yourself with this fun, cool, with-it, hip brand that wasn’t snobbish or so exclusive that it felt like a European luxury brand.”
And the bags seemed to effortlessly appeal to a variety of women. “She had a quirky visual language that captivated Bat Mitzvah girls and artists alike,” wrote actress Lena Dunham on Twitter. “She was also a staple of NYC who spread goodwill.”