Remembering Kate Spade



Renown fashion designer and business influencer, Kate Spade, was only 55 years old when she tragically passed away just this week. As an entrepreneur, Spade was known for her hustle, hard work, and integrity, which showed tenfold through her exponential business success. We take a look back on her legacy, specifically her entrepreneurial journey, and how she turned a small handbag business into a multimillion-dollar empire while simultaneously embodying style and poise:

She kickstarted her career in the journalism field, where she graduated from Arizona State University in 1985 with a journalism degree, and soon after moved to New York where she held a position with Mademoiselle magazine in the accessories department. However, seven years later she felt as though the publication field wasn't entirely for her and quit. With next to no experience in fashion, she decided to pursue handbag design, and with no income and sole reliance on her husband's savings, the situation became pressing for her to make something happen.

When you don’t have an income coming in, you’re doing whatever you can to make it happen.
— Kate Spade, "How I Built This", 2017

Luckily, she utilized her fashion magazine network and connections to find a pattern maker whom she apprenticed and soaked every bit of experience up from. Her first handbag debut was in the New York City trade show where she spent $4,000 and didn't see the return she was hoping for. Spade was close to calling it quits on her business until she was graciously approached by two big-name brands: Fred Segal and Barneys. But, it wasn't until 1996 that they made a profit on sales, and through those three years following incorporation, she faced daily decisions weighing whether to quit or see the project through. They finally received offers from Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue which quadrupled their business. Her grit and persistence soon reaped its rewards, and that year the Kate Spade brand was awarded by the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America and was making millions yearly. 

It was a snowball effect, it got a little bigger and a little bigger and a little bigger.
— Kate Spade

Kate Spade exemplified the idea that every entrepreneur faces obstacles no matter who they are, and that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to-- even if it's not within reach. We commend and remember Kate not only for her fashion legacy, but also her endurance and tenacity through the strife she faced throughout her career, and how she did all with a smile.

You can find a more in-depth look into Kate Spade's life and journey as a businesswoman in this podcast episode of Guy Raz's "How I Built This". 

Story By: Krista Smith