I never gave much thought to what owning a Kate Spade bag meant until yesterday: mingled with the tragic news of suicide was an emerging canon of stories about women’s first Kate Spade bags. This topic seems trivial (and maybe it is); but under the surface, these stories tap into ideas about rites of passage in America, and how a woman designed and produced the bags that marked many other women's arrival and place in the world.
“Ask any girl around my age about getting her first boxy Kate Spade bag and she’ll probably have a story to tell you. It was a magnificently simple cultural marker.”
-Abby Gardner, Glamour Magazine Contributor
"I was living in Tulsa, OK and early in my "grown-up" engineering career and the black "Sam" Kate Spade handbag was all the rage! (The original bag that got her career going). Even though I couldn't really afford one, I had to have one! I sweet talked a sales associate at the Tulsa Sak's store into letting me know when they would receive a new shipment. She did and I immediately snatched it up without a second thought (then ate mac and cheese for the next few months!) This was my very first designer handbag!
Women would stop me saying...."I love that bag!", to which I would proudly say "It's a Kate Spade!" As the years went on, my Kate Spade collection expanded (and contracted) and my style has changed since that time.....but I will always remember my iconic Kate Spade "Sam" bag......because, to me, it signaled my emergence as an "adult"! Kate Spade and I were the same age and both from KC.....and story has it that her first studio was just blocks from my high school."
-Tracey Doeden, Engineer
“When I first got a job with a livable wage, one of my first purchases was a Kate Spade. I was so proud that I could buy something for MYSELF that was a better quality and more of an investment than the bags I'd been carrying. This is so sad.”
"I remember my first one! It was a wristlet, bright and colorful with a large chunky clasp. I had secured my job at one of the top spas in Texas. Finally making big money! And I went to the Galaria Mall in downtown Houston, a 45 min drive. Spent hours between LV, Kate Spade and Coach..... My first big girl "purse"! It was the bright colors and pocket that fit my phone that sold me! I felt so fancy, so grown! I will always remember that day!"
-Amanda Rigby, Master Esthetician
“My grandmother gave me my first Kate Spade bag when I was in college. I still have it. Holding Kate’s family, friends and loved ones in my heart.”
"Never had one. But loved them. Did not have enough money. Pretty sure I loved them all from afar"
Kelly Narvaez, Educator
“I remember saving up for my first Kate Spade bag in my very early 20s and when I finally got it and removed it from the dust bag, I felt invincible and accomplished. Rest in peace.”
"I found my Kate Spade at a thrift store-and no it's not a knock off!"
-Susan Lyles, Theatre Executive Director
“I bought mine in 95, my senior year in college. I got it at Bloomingdales in the Beverly Center. It was the black vinyl tote. I think I wound up getting that bag in a few different styles. Kind of my first big girl bag.”
-Libby Alexander, Owner at Common Threads
“I bought my first Kate Spade bag in 1999 before I moved to NYC. I still remember feeling like I’d made it as an adult woman to have a career and a Kate Spade bag.”
-Jennifer Wilshire, Owner at Common Threads
TO DO: Here are some thoughtful articles that explore the topic more fully. If you have a chance, give them a read.
PS: A huge thank you to all who responded with stories about Kate Spade; it is an honor to be in touch with you on this topic, and to pay homage to an amazing woman and iconic designer through your stories.