“She tucked her coral lipstick away and floated back to the party.”
When I graduated from college this spring, my mother bought me the baby blue Kate Spade handbag she had witnessed me gush over in the Macy’s purse department for the months prior as a gift. It’s a simple and sophisticated design, with the classic pebbled leather that’s modest but would still seamlessly accent any outfit selection. My Kate Spade purse would be my sleek, stylish sidekick whether I was dressed in a drab outfit I had hastily put together before almost missing my bus to work, or if I was wearing a tulle-adorned cocktail dress. Her designs celebrate the whimsy and wit of femininity in any setting, and cradle everything that reminds me that I’m an ambitious woman who works and plays — my car keys, my work ID, my ruby red lipstick.
I credit the Kate Spade New York brand with having changed my preconception of New York City. Her designs inspired me to see New York through a different lens, and no longer as the vulgar and intimidating city that outsiders would have me believe was real before I moved there. There’s a common stereotype that New Yorkers love the stark colors and designs of “business professional” clothing, which brings to mind the dullness of black and navy that can often rob a woman of her vibrancy and individuality. Kate Spade challenged this with her pink tweed skirt and blazer ensembles and fruit-patterned dresses that allowed women like myself to put their femininity on display regardless of atmosphere. I fell in love with the New York City working woman image that her brand created for me. Women can be powerful while shrouded in pink in a city that prefers black.
She empowered me and thousands of other girls and women to clink our champagne glasses in a toast to our femininity.
I was shocked and saddened upon hearing the news on Tuesday that Spade had passed away from suicide. Her untimely death is a reminder that all that glitters is not gold — as with many celebrity suicides, we are left wondering what was occurring out of the public eye. The glamourous and darling world that the Kate Spade New York brand created has a reality where we’re forced to face not only the vulgar and intimidating, but the agonizing and cruel. The world can be gray and harsh rather than pink and pretty, and not even a wildly successful career can exempt someone from suffering through gloom and anguish.
On social media, hundreds of women are reflecting on the time that they received their first Kate Spade purse, including Chelsea Clinton, who received hers from her grandmother upon graduating from college. Spade did more than manufacture a utilitarian object — she designed an idea and a memory.
Today, my Kate Spade purse is a somber memory.
Rest in Peace.