Welcome back to our Fierce Female of the Week series. We were saddened to hear the news of Kate Spade passing yesterday due to suicide at the young age of just 55. We’re heartbroken to know that someone who brought such joy to so many women (and men) around the world could be struggling so much. Justine and I have both always been such big fans of Kate’s work. We’d like to use this week’s post as a tribute to her and her impact and how fierce she truly was.
Kate worked for the accessories department at Mademoiselle in Manhattan from 1986 until 1991. While at Mademoiselle, she noticed that the market lacked sensible and fashionable handbags. She decided to go and work on her own line. Kate and her husband Andy Spade launched Kate Spade Handbags in early 1993. It expanded beyond handbags to clothes, accessories and homeware. Her line inspired many looks in the fashion industry in the 90s and early 2000s. To many women, buying or receiving a Kate Spade handbag or wallet was a mark of growing up. It made so many feel confident in a way so many other brands never came close to.
Her company has always been invested in empowering women. The Kate Spade Foundation provides hands-on training for women so that they may (even for the first time) enter the workforce, start their own business, or start on a path to break out of poverty. The foundation gives about $1.2 million USD every year in the form of grants to non-profit organizations that empower women in need. They are dedicated to the raising up of women in entrepreneurship, technology and the arts. Learn more about the Kate Spade Foundation here.
Soledad O’Brien of Starfish Media revealed on Twitter after Kate’s passing that Kate Spade and Co. had often donated handbags to her company’s scholars so that they could show up to internships feeling put together. What an amazing thing to make young women – many who could never afford a designer bag – feel sophisticated and confident at an important job.
Kate was a pioneer in animal-friendly fashion from the get-go. She went fur free decades ago and banned angora wool after seeing a PETA documentary on cruelty towards rabbits. She was innovative and creative, creating designs with alternatives such as straw, cork and other vegan materials. She led the charge in the world of cruelty-free fashion. Her dedication to cruelty-free investing has been meaningful to so many vegetarians/vegans who love fashion but have felt torn due to the treatment of animals in the industry.
Kate Spade built an empire from the ripe age of 30. She inspired many women to break glass ceilings and become successful on their own account. She was a boss babe from the start and genuinely cared about the well-being of women. Her and the Kate Spade brand have always felt personal to me. Her pieces are sophisticated and chic but also quirky and inspiring. Her quotes have always inspired me to be confident and hold my head high; to work harder and do amazing things. Depression and mental illness do not discriminate, and can impact anyone in any circumstance. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-237-TALK (8255)