How Kate Spade Changed the Accessory Game

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Kate Spade at the 2002 Ace Awards.

Kate Spade showing off her signature stripes at the 2002 Ace Awards; Image: Evan Agostini/ImageDirect/Getty Images

Iconic designer Kate Spade was found dead today at the age of 55 from an apparent suicide. Her legacy lives on, however, in the colorful bags, shoes, shades, books and home goods she crafted during her time at the helm of her eponymous brand.

A former accessories editor for Mademoiselle, Spade (born Kate Brosnahan in Kansas City, Mo.) launched her brand back in 1993 with just six styles of handbags, crafted in her Tribeca loft alongside husband Andy Spade. While the offering was minimal, she was an instant success among the fashion in crowd (you know, the all-important fashion editor). The first Kate Spade New York store popped up in New York City (natch) in 1996 and the brand went on to sell way more than bags. Basically, if you needed something colorful (and often, a bit quirky) to jazz up your outfit or home, Kate Spade New York was your go-to.

Kate Spade at the 2003 CFDA Fashion Awards.

Kate Spade arriving in style to the 2003 CFDA Fashion Awards; Image: Carmen Valdes/WireImage/Getty Images

The Council of Fashion Designers of America honored the designer as an emerging talent in 1996 and in 1998, she won the Accessory Designer of the Year Award. (In a sad twist, the 2018 CFDA Fashion Awards were held last night.)

In 2007, Spade sold her ownership stake in her company. She returned to the accessory spotlight in 2016 with her new iteration, Frances Valentine. Spade even changed her name to Kate Valentine Spade to mark the occasion.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a woman who hasn’t owned (or at least coveted) a Kate Spade New York bag in her lifetime. The bags truly were timeless and classy, just like the designer.

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