I did not personally know Kate Spade. I never met her so I cannot claim to know her or her personality, but I adored her. She was the designer of newly minted career gals in the mid-90s like myself. Before then, I scoured thrift stores, looking for gently worn pieces that Mary Tyler Moore would approve because I wanted to have that vintage/retro look without the terrible old smell. In my late 20s, I decided I no longer wanted to wear that old musty smell, so that would be the end of my thrift shop excursions. I did not enjoy traditional shopping at malls and I was a little lost, but I quickly discovered the Spiegel catalog. My apparel purchases were more for work than weekends that that point. It was 1995 and I was ahead of the curve in internet shopping because of my technical background. Of course, online retail shopping as we know it today did not quite exist yet, but it would soon enough. In 1996, I had the opportunity to transfer to a great job in
Philadelphia, so I moved from Raleigh to the City of Brotherly Love on March 1, 1996. There was an epic snowstorm that week, which is still on the books as the most crippling storm in history for the city. Anyway, at this time, I purchased all my airline tickets and hotel rooms online before most people owned a PC--anyone out there remember the Alta Vista search engine? Though I didn't purchase it online, it was at this time that I purchased my first Kate Spade wristlet because I saw a picture of it on a Nordstrom "ad" on a discount travel page. It was actually a "picture" of a travel page from the New York Times! It was a light blue in color, and at that time, that was not a purse color we saw in stores! If I remember correctly, I found this wristlet in Lord & Taylor in the King of Prussia mall, but it may have been another store in that mall, so I cannot say with 100% certainty that it was Lord & Taylor.
Flash forward to Wednesday, June 6, 2018. Just two weeks prior, I had an emergency eye surgery and was out of work through the end of May. I returned to work early that morning, June 6, 2018. I stepped down awkwardly on a step--because I still had no depth perception due to the eye surgery. Anyway, I broke my foot, had to go home, and while in bed like an invalid, I read my email and Isaw the NYT headlines that Kate Spade, Fashion Icon had taken her life. I was stunned! Not quirky, independent Kate Spade! I emailed my husband and I mentioned how sad I was about Kate Spades' suicide. He knew the name but didn't really know much about her. This is what I sent to him, in a nut shell, and what she meant to me:
"Kate Spade was an icon to me in the mid-90s. She was cool, came out of nowhere, and didn’t seem to need to act fake like most designers. She used bold, bright colors when other designers stayed with neutral earth tones. Her purses weren’t cheap, but when designer bags by Hermès or Balenciaga were going for $3000 to $20,000, Kate’s handbags were new and couture for $300 to $600, well made and fun. She attracted a following. The younger population of women who were career oriented but so over the "your purse much match your shoes and belt" b.s. We wanted to shake up the rules a bit. Hell, a light blue purse goes with every color of shoe imaginable, and so what if it really does not? There were enough of us who were young, independent, made a pretty damn good salary, but weren't so into the tacky big labels splashed on our belongings (I'm looking at you YSL...yuck) who were drawn to Kate. Simple and minimal lines but bright as hell."
She was a smart businesswoman who had beautiful quirky ideas, but she also had an "exit plan" in place before starting her own label, which is important. That paid off in 1999 when Nieman Marcus bought the brand. She was still involved in the design and marketing of products, but she was protected under the Neiman Marcus umbrella.
Over the years, I've owned Kate Spade purses, shoes, bathing suits, kitchen items, etc. Though I found nothing much of her brand that spoke to me in the last ten years, I was impressed with her purse collection last year. The designs appeared to circle back to that "minimalist" look I admired in the late 90s even though the colors were very much Lily Pulitzer (puke).
I am sad for many reasons over her death. I had only a short time to grieve before Anthony Bourdain's suicide was announced the next day.
I am overwhelmed, sad, and angry. I will also not tolerate people vilifying these two or anyone else for their decision to end their own lives. That is no one's business. No one has a say or is allowed a say. It might be hard to be left behind, but you don't live in the shoes of those who make the decision to end the madness, so you do not get a say.
It makes my heart sad, especially because she was only 55 but she will most certainly be at peace now because the constant brain chatter has ceased.
The first time I saw a picture of Kate (in the New York Times in 1996), I was so happy because she looked exactly I thought she would and I did not find her to be a poseur in the fashion industry. She did not have to come up with the next big thing to stay relevant. She stayed true to her own style and the style of her consumers.
The last thing I want to say about this woman that I did not know. No one, even her husband nor daughter, will ever know what was happening inside her head. It is impossible. I love my husband dearly and he loves me dearly, but we can never spend 1 second in each other's shoe, so we just trust each other when we express our emotions. We are not here on this earth to fix each other--that isn't just me and my husband, that means everyone. As a matter of fact, no one can fix anyone else, not even a therapist. We don't have the right to try to fix anyone. We are here to love each other without pretense; without winning the social justice warrior of the year sash. I remember when Robin Williams took his life a few years ago and so many people called him a coward for taking his own life. "He was so happy, how could he possibly want to harm himself? So selfish." That made me so angry at those people who had no idea what they were even talking about. I want for everyone on the planet to be filled with total, blind happiness, but that isn't possible because we don't all have the same start in life. My one wish for this planet is that everyone would be filled with total blind happiness. That will not happen because we are not the same
Kate, I truly wish I had been your friend. Your decision to use bold, bright colors when everyone else was afraid to expand beyond traditional earth tones. Though I do not still have the very first KS wristlet I purchased, I do have a KS bathing suit and lunch bag that will hold onto to. Tightly.
Requiescat in pace, Katherine Noel Brosnahan