A new chapter started in the Kate Spade story on Friday in New York as Northern Irish designer Nicola Glass unveiled her first collection for the American fashion house.
In the three months since the eponymous brand’s founder killed herself, the fashion house has experienced something of a renaissance, as the designer’s rags to riches tale struck a chord.
Despite the fact that Spade herself had been disassociated with her namesake company since 2006 when she sold control to the Neiman Marcus Group, Tapestry, which acquired the brand in 2017 for $2.4bn, revealed in August that Kate Spade’s fourth-quarter results exceeded its expectations.
“Our e-commerce site as well as our store sales reflected the strong and immediate heartfelt response by loyal customers to the tragic news of our founder’s passing,” said Anna Bakst, the brand’s chief executive.
That there is appetite for the brand’s code of bright colours, quirky prints and general frivolity bodes well for Glass, who wanted her first collection to “feel familiar, as well as completely new”. The bags the brand is famed for came in structured totes, laser-cut baskets and practical cross-body silhouettes in punchy yellows, pinks and greens, all with the distinctive spade motif.
The clothes were just as feelgood: retro floral prints in hot pinks, bright blues and grassy greens played out on 70s-style satin dresses, complete with puff sleeves and pussybow necklines. Pastel trench coats joined the fray, as did belted Prince of Wales check suits and transparent rain macs, while footwear featured strappy sandals and knee-high boots with mid-block heels.
Glass, who replaced the long-serving creative director Deborah Lloyd last year, said she had already completed her debut collection when she heard the news of Spade’s death. “At that point … I felt like a didn’t need to change course as I had been inspired by the core DNA of the brand [to begin with].”
Far from taking the brand in a different direction, as so many newly installed designers do, Glass clearly understands the codes of the Kate Spade house, where playful femininity and accessibility play a crucial role. In this collection Glass has not delivered trophy wear-once pieces, but instead a wardrobe full of bags, shoes and dresses that women will want to keep wearing.
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It was safe as it was satisfying, with plenty of pieces that will have mass and cross-generational appeal – something that Glass has plenty of experience of, having worked for 13 years at Michael Kors, the American powerhouse famed for its commercial appeal.
In her role there as senior vice-president of accessories design, responsible for the design and development of Michael Kors Collection and Michael Michael Kors, she will have honed the skills needed to return Kate Spade to its cult 1990s status – something that Victor Luis, Tapestry’s CEO, was clearly aware of when he hired her last year.
“Her depth and breadth of experience will be an invaluable asset to the business in general, and especially the design and brand teams, as we grow and develop the business globally,” he said.