Op-Ed

Kate Spade's legacy lives on. Here's what she taught me.

Kate Spade in 2016 as she debuted her new accessories line, Frances Valentine, in New York. The designer drew fans with bright, clean looks that eschewed the '90s dour minimalism.
Kate Spade in 2016 as she debuted her new accessories line, Frances Valentine, in New York. The designer drew fans with bright, clean looks that eschewed the '90s dour minimalism. The Washington Post

A trip to Kate Spade has always been my outlet. It offers sensory (and wallet) overload in a special way.

The brand’s outfit-elevating accessories and office supplies spice up the workplace and its classic handbags are staples in my wardrobe.

I’ll now think of the late Kate Spade, who died in an apparent suicide on Tuesday, every time I enter her store. I’ll remember how her tokens of bright happiness that I often gift are nice gestures, but no substitute for the real conversation with loved ones I have leaned on in times of need.

Like many others, I’ve found myself entrenched in a certain kind of celebration throughout my 20s. The grueling duties of planning bridal and baby showers create adult group projects among friends and family who’ve grown up, but at our core, still love each other enough to bring pomp and circumstance when it is called for.

My own baby shower four years ago was Kate Spade-themed, and I remember heading to the Georgetown store in Washington, D.C., to pick up gifts for each of my party planners as a token of thanks for organizing, caring and sacrificing hours of their day (and funds) to ensure that my baby — the first of our crew — was welcomed in style.

A year later, I found myself facing postpartum depression.

What amazed me is that the same women who helped celebrate with me over mocktails and cutesy games in bright pink and neon orange were there for every hours-long phone call, dinner and coffee date. They sent texts to check in on me, solidifying why these are the women I call lifelong friends.

Beyond the parties, they supported and uplifted me in ways that I could not have imagined during one of the toughest periods of my life.

And what we now know is that behind the Kate Spade brand was its founder, a woman with inner struggles.

“It was a complete shock. And it clearly wasn’t her. There were personal demons she was battling,” said her husband, Andy Spade, in a statement to the media after her death.

In Kate Spade’s darkest hours, I hope her circle was around her to uplift her, and more importantly, I hope someone was able to help encourage her to get the help she needed.

It is stunning to see such a high-profile example of a woman — whose work exudes happiness — take her own life. Perhaps she was wearing the same mask that many of us wear daily, or maybe she was open about her mental health struggles with her close friends and families. But either way, we have another person who succumbed to struggles that many of us could have never imagined.

If Kate Spade’s brick and mortar stores are any testament to her personality, they are bold legacies, still standing, and ushering women into adulthood.

Kate Spade’s designs are signature, instantly recognizable and statement-making declarations that allow the women wearing her designs to hold on to a bit of the colorful chaos of their childhoods.

And so going forward, when I grab my Kate Spade bag, I’ll also carry with me a lesson she left behind: Listen carefully. Love hard. Live colorfully.

  Comments