How Kate Spade’s Vision for Simple Bags Became a $2.4 Billion Brand

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Kate Spade was a fashion dynamo who turned a cheerful vision of affordable luxury into a leading American brand, but relinquished control before it became a commercial juggernaut.

Initially known for simple handbags in punchy colors, the Kate Spade New York label grew into a sprawling lifestyle brand that includes furniture, baby gifts, and sneakers.

Ms. Spade walked away from her company more than a decade ago and was nurturing a new label before her death on Tuesday in an apparent suicide.

January 1993

Starting the Brand With Her Boyfriend

Not long after quitting her job as an editor at Mademoiselle magazine, Ms. Spade began her company with the help of Andy Spade, whom she later married. Mr. Spade, who met his future wife at Arizona State University, put $35,000 from his retirement savings into the fledgling business. The couple introduced an initial lineup of six purses, including one later sewed using burlap fabric sourced from a potato bag maker. In 1996, the Spades opened a store in SoHo, and by 1998, the company was generating $28 million a year in revenue.

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