Like the rest of the world, I’d been intrigued by the cult-y organisational powers of Marie Kondo. I’d needed an excuse to clean out my wardrobe ever since it began bursting with the great unworn so, after pouring a mountain of twisted fabric onto the floor, I sat on the couch and pressed ‘play’. As suspected, it was tidying porn…with much reference to “sparking joy”. Hold things, read their energy, see how it makes you feel, she repeats. Does it SPARK JOY? After half an hour watching American folks learn how to fold their clothes I was absolutely, inexplicably MOTIVATED.
So I took to my own threads. It was easy. I realised I loathed most of these things and I sorted with abandon. It was cleansing and empowering. I don’t need seven Bretons! That lacy shirt is awful! The cut-out dress was a total mistake! Hurrah! Look at me, I’m in charge of my life! No ‘joy’ could stop my recklessness! But just as soon as I’d yeehaa’d my way through most of the pile I came to a leather bag. A green, cross-body tote with a shiny gold buckle clasp.
And then I felt it. The joy. I was washed with emotion. It was my first Kate Spade – one I hadn’t seen in forever. Inside was a TARDIS of knick-knacks. Ripped subway tickets, a few pennies, a never-opened packet of gum and a coaster from a restaurant in the West Village. Is this what Kondo was on about? Because I’m crying now.
I was lost in a nostalgic transcendence. Me, arriving in New York for the first time, overwhelmed by its magnificence. Walking 5th Avenue, eating a bagel, seeing Central Park, sneaking a picture of “Carrie’s house”…and visiting the Kate Spade store in SoHo. This was a time before you could buy the label online, so returning home with a Kate Spade anything was a New York badge of honour. I remembered the interior of the store was so bright, warm and brimming with magical prints and textures that I felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. After a long peruse I settled on the green bag. It was the most exciting thing I had ever bought.
The joy one gets from, I want to say, “the unearthing of a treasure” (rather than “the buying of something”) is wholeheartedly real. And the tangible manifestation of that romantic Manhattan-centric je ne sais quoi is almost entirely unique to Kate Spade. Last year, new creative director Nicola Glass was tasked with a reinvention by parent company Tapestry Inc. The timing was delicate given the recent passing of their founder (a story that sparked international headlines) but Glass, who is actually a Northern Ireland native, was up to the challenge. Having cut her teeth in the accessories arena of houses like Michael Kors and Gucci, her gravitation to Kate Spade’s iconic shoes, bags and jewellery faction was particularly anticipated.
“When I joined the brand in January 2018, I started by looking backwards before I looked forwards. I designed my first collection with the brand’s core DNA in mind. There truly was so much opportunity” Glass tells GRAZIA. “I looked to the brand’s origins – the use of colour and print – and evolved it. I saw so much room to expand upon – to really develop and evolve the existing codes of the house in my own way.”
And while Kate Spade’s heritage ethos drives home an iconic ‘Manhattan Girl’ image, Glass is making sure inclusivity is at the core of her direction. “New York will always be our home, but I design for an eclectic mix of women—from a recent graduate buying her first proper handbag with her first pay-check to a mother treating herself to something extraordinary. Our customer is a mindset, not a demographic.”
Toting a Kate Spade is one of the original It-bag experiences and Glass is re-establishing this status. The ‘Nicola’, for example, is a sleek, rounded-edge, classic leather handbag finished with a spotlight on heritage: a large spade-heart clasp that twists to lock. The ‘Dorie’ on the other hand uses a cleverly woven pattern of leather hearts and spades to form a vibrant take on the bucket bag. When Glass presented her first collection (spring summer ‘19, in September last year) the buzz post-show was attributed to the exciting path for which she is paving. A chic, more muted colour palette and an updated curation of shapes and styles that had the millennial zeitgeist clearly in mind. But most importantly it was recapturing that Kate Spade joy.
And the current campaign concurs. A pretty, painterly, stylised photo shoot that incorporates covetable wears from the spring collection as well as three of Hollywood’s most exciting young actresses, Julia Garner (Maniac, Ozark), Sadie Sink (Stranger Things) and Kiki Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk). A perfect synergy for a brand that poses as pin-up for young, stylish ingenues.
Spring summer 2019 was Glass’ first collection as creative director and was thus anticipated by the fashion world at large. Glass respectfully and thoughtfully engaged her ideals for the label into a range of new-era feminist fashion that spoke the Spade language while lightly pepping the vocabulary. Retro flushes in both prints and styles drew a welcome rose-coloured atmosphere over pretty day frocks, sixties floral ensembles and cute puffed-sleeved tops – and made for plenty of front row wish-list scribbling (most pieces of which are available now)
By autumn winter 2019 (shown just a couple of weeks ago in New York) Glass’ ready-to-wear offering began to feel as signature as the company’s bread-and-butter accessories. Babydoll dresses in autumnal marigolds, emerald greens and bluest denim played against ruched, floaty frocks in wearable animal prints and stripy Ombre knits. Oversized fabric totes were carried in addition to sweet, mini, cross-body chain-bags in polished leather, all layered over Glass’ inspired Twiggy-meets-Carrie sartorial character. A fresh, hopeful direction for a label desired by women of all walks of life, of all backgrounds, of all ages.
“Kate Spade has always been a healthy and powerful brand with a positive message of helping women express themselves through fashion. The brand celebrates that it’s great to be a woman, and they encourage women to be the best versions of themselves. Ultimately, my intention is to bring the brand forward. We have so much to build upon, and so much room to grow, we’ve only started to scratch the surface.”
So, as my mind returned to the here and now, I carefully added the green tote to my Kondo-suggested sentimental category while bundling up most of the rest into a donation bag. Suddenly, my wardrobe had a new lease of life, ready to take on its own reestablishment. Time for a new addition, I decided, as I clicked on katespade.com. A little present to myself.. one of luxurious black leather, contrasting pink lining, a clever twisting clasp and, of course, that shiny golden spade.