I was 16. I was starting to come into my own. I had started developing my own personal sense of style and icons to go with. So naturally, my book bag choice had to reflect that. Instead of a backpack, I chose the Kate Spade Nylon Messenger Bag in black to carry my belongings. I remember having heart palpitations any time a classmate misplaced her, leaving her to touch the dirty school floors. I’d brush her off with care and affection and place her on an open seat or in my lap. Keeping her as pristine as I could. She was perfect. Classic. Timeless. And lasted what had seemed forever.
Years later, of course I jumped at the opportunity to work for the iconic designer and brand as a freelancer. Though this had been long after she had left the company, it was clear her creative light was well understood and adapted. The Kate Spade showroom was something out of a dream. Or an Audrey Hepburn film. Both actually, on Park Ave. I remember my first time sitting in that waiting room. As I crossed, uncrossed, and crossed my ankles again, my eyes fixated on the unique and girl’s-girl type of decor. My inner girl clicked her heels inside. Pops of color reigned the receptionist area with style. The desk was a shiny glass and the couches were I think to remember a bright pink. Turquoise with white polka dots were in the mix somewhere with magazines fashionably staggered across the welcoming table. I wanted so badly to snap photos but I resisted. A little paranoid maybe but I felt so lucky to be there—each time. I couldn’t screw it up. So I waited until my assignments were over to capture some of the magic.
Above is just a taste of the colorful mood that shined throughout the Kate Spade showroom July, 17 of 2015. Maybe on the third floor it was. And working in the studio, office, and mock retail store, I had the pleasure of working with her product all day long—day-dreaming of what I would add to my closet or apartment next.
The news of her tragic death struck me today. Her quotes were so inspirational, cheery, vivacious, and colorful. Her designs highlighted neons and brights while her darks were the shiniest of hues. Her bags and small bags were sleek and chic with simplicity. Her skirts were full of stripes and florals. Her coats were made of luxurious fur—showcasing the stature of animal print or jet black. Her jewelry always added to the look. A pearl necklace adorning a knit sweater or Peter Pan collared dress. And her tech goods were uniquely innovative—leaving pocket room for cards and ids. She must have had some say in these right? She was always thinking of the extravagant and tasteful lifestyle of the elite woman. And her shoes, no one can forget her shoes. Some had glitter, some were made of patent—all had shine.
I was at a loss for words. Also I didn’t know the entire history. I knew of the acquisition but didn’t process the hurt it could have caused. I didn’t know that she stepped away from the company a while back. I was confused and still am. She was a fashion icon. She was successful, courageous, and beautiful. She has a family. And is loved by so many. Women aspired to think like her, dress and accessorize in Kate Spade, decorate their homes to complete the look. Some throw KSNY themed parties to live like her for a night or afternoon. Her bubbly energy was contagious. Because her designs make you feel special.
So I read about her life. Before she became Kate Spade. When she was Katherine Noel Brosnahan—through the lives of colleagues, CFDA council members, and fashion editors. But also you didn’t have to know her to feel a connection to her and this loss. I looked at photographs of her, black and white to color. Because we forget no matter how successful, we’re still people. But remembering her for her light is what we must remember her as and for—because she leaves a little sparkle wherever she goes.