Remembering Kate Spade’s Most Distinctive Designs

As FN reported, designer Kate Spade was found dead today of an apparent suicide in her New York apartment. She had introduced just in 2016 Frances Valentine, her latest accessory and handbag venture, launched with husband Andy Spade, so the 55-year old’s death came as a shock to the fashion world.

Named after the couple’s 13-year-old daughter, Frances Beatrix Spade, Frances Valentine embodies the Spades’ expertise in quirky accessories that laid the groundwork for the Kate Spade brand and focuses it into a refined footwear and handbag line.

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Kate Spade in her New York showroom in November 2000.
CREDIT: Rex Shutterstock

“I love all the details and character you can evoke with shoes. They are charming objects and the most rewarding to make,” said Spade when she spoke to FN regarding the brand’s debut spring ’16 collection.

The duo’s long-term investment in stylish adornments dates back more than two decades to the launch of Kate Spade’s eponymous company in 1993. While the partners sold a majority stake to Neiman Marcus in 1999, and the balance in 2007, Spade’s mark on womenswear and American design had already infiltrated the ’90s.

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Kate Spade in her New York showroom in October 2001.
CREDIT: Rex Shutterstock

The designer’s lighthearted, whimsical approach to fashion remains evident in the Kate Spade brand today — now owned by Tapestry Inc. — while many of the signature pieces she created during her time at the helm will forever remain staples.

Here, FN remembers five of Kate Spade’s most distinctive designs during her career.

The Sam Bag

Arguably Spade’s most famous piece is the Sam bag, which has an uncomplicated boxy silhouette varnished in black nylon. The only thing square about the bag in its heyday was its shape, as the style itself became an “it” bag that every woman wanted to swing around her arms. Jumping on the ’90s trend, Kate Spade brought the Sam bag back for its spring ’18 collection, adding modern elements such as 3-D appliqués, and leather and wicker fabrications.

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Kate Spade reimagined the brand’s classic ’90s Sam bag for spring ’18.
CREDIT: Rex Shutterstock

Mary Janes

Almost as synonymous as the Sam bag is to Kate Spade are Mary Janes. While Spade did not create the popular shoe, she created many printed or patterned pairs. She continued her stamp on the silhouette via Frances Valentine, whose recent options include haircalf cheetah print, snake print leather and oversized buckles.

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The Frances Valentine Katy Mary Jane in cheetah print.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Frances Valentine

Straw and Raffia Detailing 

Across both handbags and shoes, straw and raffia often provided a natural touch among Spade’s accessories. Straw (and wicker) totes continue to take up critical stock across the line of Frances Valentine bags, while sandals adorned with raffia flowers add texture within footwear.

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The Frances Valentine Joy Raffia flower block heel sandals.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Frances Valentine

Sculptural Frances Valentine Heels

At just 2 years old, Frances Valentine’s sculptural heels have become a statement shoe among influencers at fashion weeks globally. The geodesic domes can be found among the label’s rainbow palette of patent heels and metallic sandals.

street style, new york fashion week, shoes, NYFW
Yellow patent Frances Valentine shoes featuring a geometric heel.
CREDIT: Jason Jean

Embellished Footwear

Before Frances Valentine’s signature mirrored dome heels entered the picture, Spade was known to have an affinity for dazzling embellishments. Whether bejeweled thong sandals from the Kate Spade collection circa 2000 or diamond-studded kitten heels from Frances Valentine today, the designer always reserved room for glitz and glamour.

kate spade, frances valentine
(L-R): A Kate Spade sandal in 2000, Frances Valentine Beatrix metallic heels in 2018.
CREDIT: (L-R): Rex Shutterstock, Courtesy of Frances Valentine

Want more?

From the FN Archives: Looking Back at Kate Spade’s 1999 FNAA Award

Kate Valentine Talks Career Breakthroughs, Plus a Look at Her Resort ’18 Collection

Fashion Designer Kate Spade Dies at 55

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