0 comments / Jun 18, 2018,author:Courtney | LOXLUX Jewelry" > Posted on by Courtney | LOXLUX Jewelry

The sad passing of Kate Spade has left many reflecting on the darker side of life in the celebrity spotlight, as well as wanting to learn more about the life and work of this much-loved American fashion designer and businesswoman. It’s likely the name ‘Kate Spade’ will bring to mind images of her iconic handbags, rather than the woman behind them.

Spade was born Katherine Noel Brosnahan on 24 December 1962 in Kansas City, Missouri. She was proud of her Irish descent, and her future fashion designs were influenced by her mother’s career (and distinctive uniform) as a flight attendant. 

She started designing her own handbags in the early 1990s, after growing frustrated with the bags on offer as she began her working life in New York. At this time, she was just starting out on her original career path as a journalist, having recently graduated with a journalism degree from Arizona State University. It would seem she stumbled upon fashion design out of a feeling of necessity, rather than it being a lifelong ambition.

Spade wanted to design bags which were functional, as well as having style. Her original designs were made from just scotch tape and paper - she took them to a manufacturer she’d found in east New York, which was willing to help her turn her fledgling designs into actual handbags. Together with her partner, Andy Spade, she financed the young start-up using credit cards and Andy’s savings. ‘Kate Spade Handbags’ was launched in 1993 in their New York apartment. Although they weren’t yet married, ‘Kate Spade’ likely sounded a catchier, and more sophisticated name for a fashion brand than ‘Kate Brosnahan’.

In 1999, American department store Neiman Marcus bought 56% of the company, demonstrating how popular the designs had become. The Kate Spade brand then expanded into other areas, selling shoes, clothes, stationery, household goods and books, as well as the iconic handbag range.

Kate Spade herself walked away from the company in 2007, a year after Neiman Marcus sold its share to Liz Claiborne. The sale had limited the Spades’ control over decisions, and they decided to sell their 44% share to Liz Claiborne as well, ironically leaving Kate Spade with no control over her own ‘Kate Spade’ brand. She then decided to spend time looking after their daughter, who had been born in 2005.

In 2016 she started a new brand, Frances Valentine, named after her daughter (Frances) and using her grandfather’s surname (Valentine). In fact, she legally adopted Valentine as her own surname, becoming Kate Valentine rather than Kate Spade – perhaps showing she wished to distance herself from her former endeavours, and start afresh.

On 5 June this year, she was found dead in her New York Park Avenue apartment. Her sister, Reta Saffo, told the media in America that Spade had suffered from depression and her death was not unexpected. She said she believed her bipolar disorder had been brought on by her ‘immense celebrity’. Luxury fashion company Tapestry now owns the Kate Spade brand, which remains popular around the world.

The sad passing of Kate Spade has left many reflecting on the darker side of life in the celebrity spotlight, as well as wanting to learn more about the life and work of this much-loved American fashion designer and businesswoman. It’s likely the name ‘Kate Spade’ will bring to mind images of her iconic handbags, rather than the woman behind them.

Spade was born Katherine Noel Brosnahan on 24 December 1962 in Kansas City, Missouri. She was proud of her Irish descent, and her future fashion designs were influenced by her mother’s career (and distinctive uniform) as a flight attendant. 

She started designing her own handbags in the early 1990s, after growing frustrated with the bags on offer as she began her working life in New York. At this time, she was just starting out on her original career path as a journalist, having recently graduated with a journalism degree from Arizona State University. It would seem she stumbled upon fashion design out of a feeling of necessity, rather than it being a lifelong ambition.

Spade wanted to design bags which were functional, as well as having style. Her original designs were made from just scotch tape and paper - she took them to a manufacturer she’d found in east New York, which was willing to help her turn her fledgling designs into actual handbags. Together with her partner, Andy Spade, she financed the young start-up using credit cards and Andy’s savings. ‘Kate Spade Handbags’ was launched in 1993 in their New York apartment. Although they weren’t yet married, ‘Kate Spade’ likely sounded a catchier, and more sophisticated name for a fashion brand than ‘Kate Brosnahan’.

In 1999, American department store Neiman Marcus bought 56% of the company, demonstrating how popular the designs had become. The Kate Spade brand then expanded into other areas, selling shoes, clothes, stationery, household goods and books, as well as the iconic handbag range.

Kate Spade herself walked away from the company in 2007, a year after Neiman Marcus sold its share to Liz Claiborne. The sale had limited the Spades’ control over decisions, and they decided to sell their 44% share to Liz Claiborne as well, ironically leaving Kate Spade with no control over her own ‘Kate Spade’ brand. She then decided to spend time looking after their daughter, who had been born in 2005.

In 2016 she started a new brand, Frances Valentine, named after her daughter (Frances) and using her grandfather’s surname (Valentine). In fact, she legally adopted Valentine as her own surname, becoming Kate Valentine rather than Kate Spade – perhaps showing she wished to distance herself from her former endeavours, and start afresh.

On 5 June this year, she was found dead in her New York Park Avenue apartment. Her sister, Reta Saffo, told the media in America that Spade had suffered from depression and her death was not unexpected. She said she believed her bipolar disorder had been brought on by her ‘immense celebrity’. Luxury fashion company Tapestry now owns the Kate Spade brand, which remains popular around the world.

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