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Kate Spade Redefined The World Of Accessories For The Everyday Woman

"I hope that people remember me not just as a good businesswoman but as a great friend — and a heck of a lot of fun."

On Tuesday, June 5, fashion designer Kate Spade (aka Kate Brosnahan) was found dead in her New York apartment, reportedly of an apparent suicide.

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She started her fashion career in 1986, originally working in the accessories department at Mademoiselle magazine, where she refined her style aesthetic before eventually leaving to work on her own.

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Spade was not only the founder of the eponymous line Kate Spade, but also a style pioneer for many of the accessory looks we saw throughout the '90s and early '00s.

The line has continued to inspire the fashion world through campaigns and ads, and it has, for many years, challenged the question of who can — and should — have access to the fashion industry.
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The line has continued to inspire the fashion world through campaigns and ads, and it has, for many years, challenged the question of who can — and should — have access to the fashion industry.

The line literally redefined how a purse should — and could — look.

Previous handbags had stuck to an archaic idea of fashion where bags were complementary to an outfit, and not a standalone piece. However, a Kate Spade bag was limitless in its creative nature — you could have fabric, texture, colors, and patterns that were vibrant and out of this world. "Her bags have an almost iconic look to them," said Lori J. Durante, the curator and founder of Delray Beach's Museum of Lifestyle & Fashion History, in a 2002 interview with MyPalmBeachPost. "They're stylish without being over-styled. They're so simplistic, yet you know it's her design." The once-accessories editor made her brand stand out by making signature pieces that proved purses could be as quirky as the individual wearing them.
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Previous handbags had stuck to an archaic idea of fashion where bags were complementary to an outfit, and not a standalone piece. However, a Kate Spade bag was limitless in its creative nature — you could have fabric, texture, colors, and patterns that were vibrant and out of this world. "Her bags have an almost iconic look to them," said Lori J. Durante, the curator and founder of Delray Beach's Museum of Lifestyle & Fashion History, in a 2002 interview with MyPalmBeachPost. "They're stylish without being over-styled. They're so simplistic, yet you know it's her design." The once-accessories editor made her brand stand out by making signature pieces that proved purses could be as quirky as the individual wearing them.

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Her constant challenging of what defined "good" allowed her to narrow in on the consumer.

The night before her first trade show, Spade ripped out the "Kate Spade New York" labels from the inside of her bags, instead stitching them on the outside. The day after, Barneys ordered 18 bags (with one stipulation: Spade had to sew the labels back on the inside), but customers soon insisted that the clothier call Spade back and get the original purses — yes, with the label on the outside.
Cindy Ord / Getty Images

The night before her first trade show, Spade ripped out the "Kate Spade New York" labels from the inside of her bags, instead stitching them on the outside. The day after, Barneys ordered 18 bags (with one stipulation: Spade had to sew the labels back on the inside), but customers soon insisted that the clothier call Spade back and get the original purses — yes, with the label on the outside.

And her purses became a piece of cultural iconography for women everywhere.

"The purses became something of a handshake," Wall Street Journal fashion reporter Christina Binkley told Racked. "When two women met and saw they were both holding Kate Spade bags, they'd nod at each other and understand they were on the same page. It was very chic."
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"The purses became something of a handshake," Wall Street Journal fashion reporter Christina Binkley told Racked. "When two women met and saw they were both holding Kate Spade bags, they'd nod at each other and understand they were on the same page. It was very chic."

Of course, she eventually went into womenswear fashion, using that same detail-oriented playfulness to create collection after collection of beautiful, vibrant clothing for the everyday boss babe.

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Her clothes, even after Spade's departure from the brand in 2007, remained aligned to her signature style. From the red carpet to high-end editorials, Kate Spade's clothes have been everywhere, constantly pushing the fashion needle forward.

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Oh, and who can forget that monumental moment when Andy Sachs sported a gold Kate Spade bag in The Devil Wears Prada?

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Following the news of her passing, celebrities took to Twitter to remember the designer and her amazing impact, while also urging others to seek help if they are experiencing suicidal thoughts.

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.

Kate Spade and Co donated handbags to our scholars, so they'd show up at their internships looking great and feeling great. They always downplayed their gift, and maybe this sounds silly, but it was a big deal for our young women to show up to an important gig with a great bag. https://t.co/EbmpfSVhxZ

Depression does not discriminate and comes without warning. RIP Kate Spade. Love to her family. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

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I am heartbroken about the news of Kate Spade. I have worn her clothes many, many times. They were colorful, bold, cheerful, and encouraged women to find the twinkly person inside them. You couldn’t walk into her boutiques and not smile. Rest In Peace, Kate.

PETA remembers Kate Spade for her pioneering work in animal-friendly fashion. RIP ❤️

You are not alone: national suicide hotline. 1-800-273-8255

Very saddened to hear about the passing of Kate Spade. Mental illness does not discriminate and can happen to anyone with any circumstances. I hope she has found peace ❤️

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While Kate Spade will surely be missed, we know that her influence on the fashion industry will continue to live on.

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If you are thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.

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