20 Questions With Kate Spade
We sat down to talk to iconic designer Kate Spade about her new accessories line, her first job, and her Starbucks order.
Kate Spade is back and better than ever. After selling her iconic fashion brand and namesake, she's back with a new accessories line—Frances Valentine. On the heels of the line's launch, we sat down with Kate to learn more about her new brand, her life at home, and her favorite emojis.
Where did you get the inspiration for the name Frances Valentine?
"[Frances Valentine] is my daughter's name. We don't tell her that. I mean, she knows it's her name, I told her that it was named after our grandparents, which it is. So that she doesn't think, if it doesn't work, she doesn't have to be sad, and if it does work, knock on wood, she doesn't get a big head."
Was it relaxing to take a few years off from fashion and spend them with your daughter?
"It was just an unbelievable treat, but now she's kind of getting to the point where she's saying, you know, 'I'd like some privacy.'
How does she like it now that you're working again?
"I told Bea we're going to go to Venice and she was like 'whatever'. I told her, this is like the experience of a lifetime. The only place I went at your age was the Ozarks."
Has motherhood influenced any of your designs this time around?
"I don't know about that, in terms of directly. I think I'm a little less nervous about what I'd like to wear. If you're raising a child, and it's so much work, particularly today—you're so worried about making a wrong move."
What made you decide to narrow in on bags and shoes for this collection?
"It's funny, we had a meeting with Anna Wintour and she said, 'oh, okay, you're doing bags, right?' Because all I showed her was my initial sketches of the shoes. 'But there are bags?' and I was like 'Oh…' and she said, 'There are bags.' … I ran back to the office like, 'We need to do bags!'"
Do you think you'll release more products later?
"I want the same luxury I had when we started Kate Spade, which is to start slowly, to build a base of confidence from our customers, and figure out what's right and wrong. Everyone though I was going to come out guns blazing, shoes, bags, housewares… And I thought, no. We grew into that at Kate Spade so I feel like I have the opportunity to grow into it at Frances Valentine."
Where does your inspiration for designs come from?
"Really mostly from things I want to wear, truly. You hope it works and that people feel the same, but I would say that they're things I want to wear. Oh, I have to have that shoe. I kind of draw it from anywhere. I don't have this big design room, it's really by style. A lot of the details, to the point that people go crazy. But they still like working with me. But I'm really crazy about color, material, the architecture of the shoe."
Who is the typical shopper for Frances Valentine? With Kate Spade, it transcended so many generations.
"I kind of feel it's the same, but maybe it's evolved a bit because I'm not in the same place I was when we sold [Kate Spade]. I do think it's somebody who is really interested in personal fashion and has a sense of style, isn't driven by trends, and buys things that they actually like—whether they're in or out."
What advice would you give to women looking to re-brand, whether in business or their personal life?
"Don't be nervous. I think there was a part of me that was a little hesitant about starting a new company, because we had succeeded and done well and then the transition between us selling, and they've done very well and respected the DNA of the brand and the integrity of it. I didn't want to step on any toes, but at the same time you want to do what you want to do and make a change. It wasn't one that I expected. It really wasn't. I didn't set out thinking when I sold the company that I would come back."
What is your leadership style?
"I told [my husband] Andy I love to hold meetings that are calm and organized. He said 'Organized? Yes. Calm? Maybe not so much.' "
What is your favorite emoji?
"The heart. I send it to my daughter. That and the kissy face. I wrote it this morning when I said 'Please get up and don't forget to feed the dog.'"
How much has social media changed the way you do business now, compared to when you started Kate Spade?
"I personally, as silly as it sounds, am not very involved. I'm not interested in it. I realize it's a big part of what people are doing today, but I'm still writing letters. I love getting letters, I just opened one yesterday. We have changed the business in trying to be modern in that respect, we have a wonderful team of creatives. I get all these notes like 'I loved your Instagram!', and I'm like 'Oh, did you? I'll have to look it up.'"
If you had to pick, flats or heels?
What are your favorite things to splurge on?
"I splurge on my lotions and potions. And also, those 'I have to have you' pieces. I was driving up Madison Avenue and I was on the phone, and I was like 'What store is that?' Celine? No, Lanvin. Anyway, I called my husband and he was about six blocks behind me, and I said 'Will you pull over and go and grab this jacket, it's upstairs in the window.' That's just how I shop, spontaneously."
Of lotions and potions, what's your favorite?
La Mer. And Cetaphil. But, honestly, if they say 'This will take off 200 years', I'll buy it. It's like those commercials you see, with a graveyard of products, some of which have never been opened.
What's your favorite piece in your closet?
"My Irish fisherman sweater that my father gave to me when I was eleven and I still wear it. It's wool, and I wore it for the People magazine shoot. I don't know what he paid for it, probably nothing, but what I paid to have the arms mended was insane."
What was your first job?
"Babysitting. But then, really, clothing stores. I always worked at clothing stores. That's where Andy and I met, in a clothing store. I was on the women's side, he was on the men's side. His car broke down, he needed a ride, then it kept breaking down a lot. But, yeah—I always worked in fashion, in clothing. Also, I did work at a movie theater doing popcorn. One squirt or two?"
What is your favorite holiday?
"Christmas. My birthday is Christmas Eve."
Do you demand separate celebrations?
"Oh, no. I always thought that my mom's [holiday] parties were my parties. They'd bring a box of chocolates, and I'd be like 'Thank you!'"
Do you have a morning routine?
"Waking my daughter up, that takes like half an hour. And Starbucks. Andy I drink the same thing—Iced Doppios [two shots of espresso, straight]—then we bring them home and put our almond milk in them."