Kate Spade honors late founder at New York Fashion Week


Kate Spade put the sparkle into New York Fashion Week on Friday, paying tribute in a riot of colour to the handbag brand's founder, three months after her tragic death.

It was the label's first runway show at the bi-annual style fest, having previously opted for Instagram-able presentations, held this time in the lofty surrounds of the iconic New York Public Library.

The new creative director, Northern Ireland-born Nicola Glass, was already working on her debut collection when 55-year-old Spade, who founded the company with her husband, committed suicide in June.

Silver glitter ran down the centre of the pale pink-carpeted runway, a nod to the woman whose brand has been synonymous with a joyful outlook on life since its founding in 1993.

"She left a little sparkle everywhere she went," said a pink note left on the seat of every guest. "In loving memory 1962-2018."

"Even though she hasn't been here for over 10 years, her spirit's definitely still here at the company," Glass, a former Gucci handbag and jewellery designer who previously worked at Michael Kors, told AFP.

Photo: AFP

The collection was rooted in the brand's DNA: colour, fun, joyfulness for spirited women, sophisticated and feminine, yet wearable from day to evening.

Kate Spade's spring/summer 2019 is one of pale lilac, hot pink, dark green, chartreuse, florals and print, with block-heeled sandals and knee-high boots, and liberal use of the spade symbol.

"It feels more modern, less retro, there's more polished ease to it and prints, they've been evolved in a way where they're a little bit more graphic with unexpected details," Glass told AFP.

Pale white balloon-style lights were suspended from the ceiling and an unusually diverse stream of models, although each very slim, strode the runway before taking their places on silver diases.

Besides the silk dresses, cropped pants, checked suiting and buttoned mini-skirts, they sported purses, sunglasses and silk headscarves knotted at the nape of the neck.

"She's a woman who, I think, is in love with life and has a sense of purpose," said Glass. "It's more of a mindset than a demographic."

Priyanka Chopra, Elizabeth Olsen, Gillian Jacobs, Nicola Glass, Julia Jones, Suki Waterhouse and Kate Bosworth attend the Kate Spade New York Fashion ShowPhoto: AFP

Coach (now Tapestry) bought the label in 2017 in a deal worth $2.4 billion. Spade ceded a majority stake in 1999 and sold her last shares in the mid-2000s for another $59 million.

Glass never met Spade in person, but hailed her as a role model woman, entrepreneur and designer.

"I think she really encouraged women to have fun with fashion, and that it wasn't intimidating, that they could express themselves," Glass said.

Spade committed suicide in her Park Avenue apartment on June 5, after battling with depression and anxiety for years despite a dazzling career that made her the darling of American career women.

"There was a moment when you couldn't walk a block in New York without seeing one of her bags, which were just like her: colourful and unpretentious," Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour has said.

Fashion designer Kate Spade, 55, found dead in New York apartment

  • Kate Spade, the designer who built a fashion empire on the popularity of her signature handbags before selling the brand, was found dead in her New York City apartment on Tuesday morning in an apparent suicide, police said.
  • Spade, 55, hanged herself and was found by her housekeeper at her home on Park Avenue on Manhattan's Upper East Side, the New York Daily News reported, citing unnamed police officials.
  • Born Katherine Noel Brosnahan in Kansas City, Missouri, Spade was a former accessories editor at the now-closed Mademoiselle magazine before she and Andy Spade launched their namesake design company, Kate Spade New York, in 1993. The couple married the following year.
  • They began by selling handbags before expanding to include clothing, jewelry, bedding, legwear and fragrances.
  • The brand grew into a fashion empire, known for accessories that offered affordable luxury to younger working women. Her brightly coloured, clean-lined style offered a spunky take on fashion at time when luxury handbags were out of reach to most consumers.
  • Kate Spade New York released a statement calling the news "incredibly sad."
  • "Although Kate has not been affiliated with the brand for more than a decade, she and her husband and creative partner, Andy, were the founders of our beloved brand," the statement said. "Kate will be dearly missed."
  • The New York City chief medical examiner's office said the cause of Spade's death was under investigation.
  • Kate Spade with Michael Kors
  • Spade told National Public Radio (NPR) last year that she first discussed starting a handbag company with Andy Spade while they ate at a Mexican restaurant in 1991.
  • "I said, 'Honey, you don't just start a handbag company,'" she told NPR, "and he said, 'Why not, how hard can it be?'"

Tory Burch cruises

The American founder of the global lifestyle brand Tory Burch evoked similar cheer, unveiling a collection, imbued with the memory of her wealthy parents and their Mediterranean cruises.

The clothes were inspired by their steamer-hopping trips from Italy to Greece, and from Spain to Morocco, full of contrast from Cyprus lace to North African djellabas and flamenco flounces.

There was also a Burch version of the safari suit, evoking the spirit of French master couturier Yves Saint Laurent, who famously reimagined this most practical of desert attire.

MAD for denim

If colour is warming the hearts of troubled times in Donald Trump's America this fashion week, Rihanna favourite Matthew Adams Dolan went vibrant if utilitarian and unisex to a soundtrack of thumping techno.

His clothes were oversized, with giant pockets in fluorescent yellow, blue, fuscia, green and his trademark denim, which brought him to Rihanna's attention and through whom he found fame.

In a rare nod to femininity, denim dresses were short and ruffled, but wide-cut pants were strictly XXXL on the slender models.