In 1993, bored with the “stale” handbags she saw in the magazine she worked at, Kate Brosnahan Spade launched six nylon handbags.
Fun and functional, Kate’s bags were an instant hit. Her company quickly grew, from selling bags and clothing to becoming a full-fledged lifestyle brand. Today, it is one of the most popular fashion brands around, doing more than one billion dollars worth of sales in 2015.
Despite its crazy success, Kate Spade is a relatively young company – it celebrated its 20 year anniversary in 2013. Sold by department stores like Bloomingdales and Saks Fifth Avenue and purchased by women everywhere, its success puts it on par with many heritage fashion brands.
“Something of A Handshake”
In 1993, sales were at $100,000. By 1995, Kate Spade sales had already reached $1.5 million. In 1996, the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) awarded its “America’s New Fashion Talent in Accessories” to the company.
In 1999, Kate Spade sold her brand to the Neiman Marcus Group, though she remained active at the company. After that, Kate Spade New York gained traction – and gained it fast. It wasn’t a fleeting, crash and burn kind of traction. Today the company, which was again sold to Fifth & Pacific (formerly Liz Claiborne) in 2006, has hit the billion dollar mark and continues its growth.
Kate Spade appeals to women everywhere – an appeal that spans age. From teens to the college crowd to the moms, Kate Spade resonates and lures.
“The purses became something of a handshake,” says Wall Street Journal fashion reporter Christina Binkley of the brand’s success in the late ’90s. “When two women met and saw they were both holding Kate Spade bags, they’d nod at each other and understand they were on the same page. It was very chic.”
Kate Spade’s aesthetic is an original one. The name has become synonymous with playfulness, color, femininity, and fun. “Very Kate Spade” is a compliment – it means that what you’re wearing looks chic and classic but still fresh.
In the past twenty-plus years, this aesthetic has never gotten stale, and continues to be reinvented every season. Kate Spade has designed purses shaped like taxis, animals and Chinese food takeout boxes, but also more wearable, functional stylish bags. Both ends of the extreme sell well.
After she became president and chief creative officer in 2007, Deborah Lloyd expanded Kate Spade into a lifestyle brand. Girls everywhere could buy beach towels, phone cases, school planners, and umbrellas, infused with that whimsical sophistication Kate Spade is known for. Today the brand continues its growth and shows no sign of slowing down.
If you read CF often, you know we are huge Kate Spade fans. I, for one, am obsessed with the brand. Their store décor, their products, and even their packaging have this distinctive flair that I and thousands of other girls find oh-so-covetable.
Do you like the Kate Spade aesthetic? Do you own anything from the brand? Any other designers you would like to see featured in the Designer Spotlight series? Tell us below!