Kate Spade items fly off virtual thrift shop shelves after designer's death

PHOTO: Reuters

NEW YORK - The unexpected death of fashion designer Kate Spade on Tuesday has shoppers rushing to buy her brightly coloured handbags, raising prices of used merchandise several times over, second-hand online retailers said.

Online fashion market Tradesy saw a sextupling of average prices, a doubling of supply and an 800 per cent increase in purchases for Kate Spade handbags on the day of her death. Bags that had sold for $50 the previous week fetched $300 on June 5, in line with new bags.

"Whenever an artist of any kind passes, it's a common thing that you see both demand for their products increase and average price also increase," said Kamini Lane, chief marketing officer of the Santa Monica-based company. "But I've never seen a jump this significant before."

The 55-year-old designer, who with her husband built a fashion empire on the popularity of affordable luxury, was found dead in her New York City apartment on Tuesday in an apparent suicide.

Lane recalled that when the high-end couture designer Azzedine Alaia, who dressed stars from Greta Garbo to Grace Jones and Lady Gaga, died last November, the platform saw a spike in the sale of Alaia items, but it was nowhere close to the story of Spade.

"Kate Spade was so accessible to so many people and therefore desired by a broader base," she said, adding that after Spade's death the platform was selling "hundreds of items a day."

Kate Spade's brightly coloured, clean-lined accessories and bags offered a spunky style to younger working women at a time when luxury handbags were out of reach of most consumers and the industry was dominated by venerable European brands.

Kate and her husband Andy Spade sold their last stake in the Kate Spade accessories brand in 2006 and in 2016 launched a new footwear and accessories brand called Frances Valentine, named after their daughter.

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?'"

Last month high-end handbag maker Tapestry Inc, which bought the Kate Spade brand a year ago, said that sales at established stores were disappointing because of a reduction in discounting of new bags, which cost around $200 to $300.

Tapestry was not immediately available for comment.

Online thrift store ThreadUP said it had sold three times as many Kate Spade items on Tuesday, the day she died, than on Monday.

Items with the Kate Spade logo, primarily bags, were most in demand, with users buying more than 3 times as many Kate Spade handbags the day of and day after Spade's death, when compared against the three month trailing average for Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the company said.

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