Kate Spade is in good hands

Kate Spade is in good hands
Ms Deborah Lloyd.

From the art deco architecture along Shanghai's Bund to the neon lights of Tokyo's city streets, iconic Asian vistas are playing a central role in American fashion label Kate Spade New York's fall/winter 2014 collection this year.

In a phone interview from New York last month, the brand's creative director Deborah Lloyd explains that the line was inspired by travel and the accompanying sense of newness and excitement.

"I never knew, but sort of discovered that it was known as the Paris of the East," says the 50-year-old British designer, on visiting Shanghai last year. "I was taking pictures of the place, which totally inspired the pieces and the colours."

Quirky items such as a birdcage handbag and a fan-shaped clutch are part of the collection, which is now in stores. Items range from $100 for a card case to $1,300 for a coat.

Kate Spade, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, is also exploring new territory with the growth of the company. The brand, which has more than 300 stores worldwide, recorded US$742 million (S$946 million) in sales last year.

Chief executive officer Craig Leavitt expressed ambitions of eventually growing the lifestyle brand into a US$4 billion empire, according to a Women's Wear Daily report earlier this year.

Kate Spade also became the only remaining brand under its parent company, Fifth & Pacific, which sold its other fashion lines, such as Juicy Couture and Lucky Brand Jeans, and was renamed Kate Spade & Co. in February.

"We're growing but, gradually, as the right stores and locations arrive on our doorstop," says Lloyd, indicating that it is not about opening a specific number of outlets but the right kind of store.

There are currently three Kate Spade stores in Singapore at Takashimaya Shopping Centre, Raffles City and Ion Orchard.

The brand declined to reveal any sales or growth figures here, but said it plans to open a store at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands next year.

"In business terms, yes, we're the name of the company; but, for us, the focus is the same. Our girl is a strong girl with a point of view. She's quick, curious and playful. She wants to stand out in a crowd."

Though the "Kate Spade woman" Lloyd designs for remains a constant, the designer has been ushering in new product categories since her arrival at the brand in 2007. She replaced the namesake founder, who parted ways with the brand.

EVOLUTION OF THE BRAND

In 2009, Kate Spade first started to offer ready-to-wear in the same bright colours and peppy spirit of the bags that the brand first built its name on.

While Lloyd declines to reveal how much each category contributes in terms of sales, she explains that ready-to-wear helped define the overall Kate Spade look.

"I think part of the success of the brand comes from people finally seeing what the Kate Spade girl looks like. It wasn't just about the accessories, but the total look and feel."

Jewellery and watches were also added to the brand, and this year in the United States, the label launched swimwear and kidswear as well.

"We'll evolve with the times and our girl, whether it's what she's wearing, tech, in her home, on vacation or getting married. We're trying to look after every aspect of her life."

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