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Day 41: K for Kate Spade

Kate Spade's Vogue Ad (Picture Courtesy:Google Images)
Everyone has a story. So does every brand. Brands are created by people- both the manufacturer (advertiser) and the consumer. I have always been curious about the stories of brands and how they shape consumers (how consumers shape them too). One of my favorite brand story is that of 'kate spade', the American fashion design house. I'm not a real 'consumer' yet. However, I have witnessed the growth of this brand in media (and through media) and have also observed it as I 'window shop'.

'kate spade' was launched officially in 1993. Kate Brosnahan (now Kate Spade) started this with her boyfriend (now husband) Andy Spade. Andy's creative and entrepreneurial bent of mind along with Kate's passion and fashion sense, helped them launch this business. They started with a line of fashion handbags. Andy Spade, the creative guy was working with advertising agency in NYC, while Kate was the senior editor in the fashion department of Mademoiselle magazine. When she felt her career had reached that 'saturation' beyond which she didn't feel a drive to pursue, she decided to quit. Andy supported her and gave her the idea to start this fashion line. Andy Spade had always shown his entrepreneurial streak by starting an ad agency even while in college. His encouragement and investment helped her start this line of handbags. The product was fresh and voguish. The box shaped urban handbags were neat and elegant and were successful. Once the company started making some progress, Kate and Andy roped in a couple of their friends and new folks to handle various departments like, procurement, PR, sales etc., In a couple of years, Kate and Andy officially married and so the brand name was just perfect. In a couple of years, they were able to open a boutique in Manhattan. The interesting aspect of this brand is its simplicity. Even the first boutique was designed by architects who had no experience in setting up retail stores. They expanded their product line and even signed deals for signature stationery. They started licensing different products from raincoats, cosmetics, home products, eyewear and even launching men's fashion totes in the brand name, Jack Spade.

Later, Neiman Marcus, the Dallas based retailer got 56% of 'kate spade's' shares. Kate and Andy were part of the company and were investing their creative hold for business. However, when Neiman was interested in selling this company, they sold their remaining 44% to Neiman Marcus. Then, Neiman finally packaged the whole bundle and sold it to Liz Claiborne, now known as Fifth and Pacific. So, even though, Kate and Andy are no longer a part of this brand, their legacy continues with the brand name.

While Kate took a break to be a full-time mother, Andy Spade continued his entrepreneurial drive by starting a company called 'Partners & Spade', a successful group that offers, branding and marketing solutions, produces movies, apparels, publishes books and so on.
Kate and Andy (Picture Courtesy: Google Images)
One interesting aspect to their story is that, neither of them were actually fashion designers. Kate's journalistic background and the experience in a fashion magazine company along with Andy's creative bent of mind just helped them pursue their passion of 'creating' something new. This brand is also a testimony for following your passion at the right moment. They did not jump in to too early nor did they get in to it too late. They established themselves in their respective careers and slowly build their empire. I could not collect the backend story on how they decided to choose "handbags" as their first design option. My research only showed that it was just an idea suggested by Andy to his then-girlfriend, as she liked handbags. I could not find out the groundwork they did before going ahead with this. This story also indicates how destiny can take us places when we are ready to work hard. I wonder, how will this brand be if they had used a different brand name, say Alex or Andy or even Kate's maiden name? I wonder how would this brand have placed itself in the fashion world, in a specific level had it decided to use bold and busy design?  As a high-end product, they have the ability to price it very high ( a satchel from kate spade is usually between $300-$1000 on their website) is probably because of the way the brand was positioned, of course, along with the design and quality of the bag. The simplistic design and communications positions it as a urban and rich fashion brand. I also wonder how would this brand be, if it were not run by a husband-wife duo? Well, these are things we can just assume and form theories. Right now, all that matters is that this is a successful brand. By the way, there are talks about Kate planning to launch a new line of accessories and footwear. When one has a wonderful, creative and hardworking husband - wife team then,  what is not possible?

Trivia: Just shoot me, the American sitcom's character Dennis Finch was played by David Spade (comedian), brother of Andy Spade.
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