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Kate Spade: 1962-2018


Tragic news in the fashion industry: Kate Spade, the pathbreaking designer, was found dead of an apparent suicide in her NYC apartment. She was 55. 

Her story

Kate was born Katherine Brosnahan in Kansas City, before eventually moving to NYC to work as an accessories editor for Mademoisellemagazine.

And her fashion empire? It all started with fun, colorful handbags for the aspirational woman. Here she is telling NPR about the night she and her husband Andy (the brother of actor David Spade) came up with the idea:

  • "So Andy and I were out, honestly, at a Mexican restaurant. And he just said, what about handbags? And I said, honey, you just don't start a handbag company. And he said, why not? How hard can it be?"

They started the company in 1993 and opened their first store in SoHo three years later. And as it grew, the brand expanded into jewelry, clothing, stationery, and more...becoming an absolute powerhouse in the fashion world. 

The winning formula: According to Spade, "I wanted a functional bag that was sophisticated and had some style." 

Then came a string of deals

  • In 1999, Neiman Marcus bought a 56% stake in the company.
  • Seven years later: Liz Claiborne bought the label for $124 million, and eventually renamed itself Kate Spade & Co.
  • 2017: Coach (now called "Tapestry") bought Kate Spade for $2.4 billion. Not that Kate herself saw any of the proceeds. She and Andy left the company a decade earlier to spend more time with family (she has a 13-year-old daughter) and focus on other projects.

Especially this latest project: Kate teamed up with Andy and other business partners to launch a new accessories label, Frances Valentine, in 2016.

+ Here's last year's "How I Built This" podcast episode featuring Kate and Andy Spade.

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