The polka-dot studded handbags of the Kate Spade accessories line weren't always in the glamorous storefront windows of SoHo; for the namesake designer, her luxury handbag business began in an apartment attic. Spade's accessories line was known for its quintessential pop of color and bright patterns, and it was the originality of Spade's business model that allowed the entrepreneur to carve out a foothold in the well-established world of luxury handbag brands.
The 55-year-old designer was found dead Tuesday in an apparent suicide, hanging from a red scarf on a bedroom door. Although she is best known for her quirky handbags, Spade was also remembered in the fashion industry for her business model and rags-to-riches origins.
Spade's eponymous brand skyrocketed after establishing its standout qualities; in the era of classic European luxury brands, she became a fashion icon through accessories that were both visually appealing and affordable. Spade built the brand with her husband Andy Spade in the early 90's, most recently starting a new accessories line called Frances Valentine.
"When Kate introduced her line back in the 90's her approach was drastically different from anything else on the market in both aesthetic and price point," Bloomingdale's CEO Tony Spring said. "At the time the handbag industry was dominated by European luxury and Kate entered with a simple yet fun design sensibility, high quality and approachable pricing. She introduced a levity into the fashion space that I think the customer found refreshing. She also shared her personality as the face of the brand. Her lighthearted quirkiness and all-American style was relatable to many women."