Kate Spade is known for her statement bags. But they are more than just bags that make style statements. Her bold creations in punchy colours bridge the gap between Main Street and luxury fashion. Owning a Kate Spade is almost a rite of passage – a symbol of adulthood – for teenage girls who transition to cosmopolitan career women. But more importantly, Kate Spade is a female icon who represented a generation of empowered women and gave meaning to accessible luxury without the air of elitism.
Her sudden passing on Tuesday came as a shock. The 55-year-old visionary designer and former accessories editor at the now-defunct magazine Mademoiselle was found dead in her Manhattan home in an apparent suicide. Her death instantly renewed discussions about mental health awareness as fans took to social media to mourn the death of the designer who was suffering from depression. Chelsea Clinton posted a tribute and retweeted a post by photographer Pete Halvorsen that resonated with many: “A reminder that ‘success’ does not equal happiness. Depression does not care about your age, status or bank account.”
As celebrities and prominent personalities around the world pay emotional tributes to the late designer, we asked our local designers to share their memories of Spade’s lively works that inspired and brought joy to the fashion world.
“Kate Spade is a very inspiring woman, for sure. I love all the animal and bird motifs she did for the brand, especially the owls. Fashion is a tough world and because we are all perfectionists, that makes things harder. This is why a lot of designers are depressed because it is not easy being at the top. Life can be difficult at times – we are all trying to please everyone yet we forget ourselves. I have never met Kate but I believe she is a very nice and talented person. RIP, Kate.”
Creative director of Cassey Gan
“I remember being very inspired by the aesthetic of her work. It always has the right balance of classic shapes with quirky details. Her designs are always fun and instantly recognisable, which are so important to a designer. Her departure will be greatly missed for sure.”
Datuk Zang Toi
Founder of House of Toi
“Her works have a unique style of her own. Such a sad, sad loss. My thoughts and prayers are with Kate’s family.”
Selina Yeop Jr
Founder of handbag label, TheSelina
“She’s an iconic woman who left the world a more colourful place with her quirky yet stylishly wearable designs. The little girl in us will always be there, [only because] our age camouflages it – so her designs reflect those evolutions of our inner self. Kate reminds us never to take anything too seriously and celebrate living.”
“I have always been in awe of Kate Spade for building her name as a household brand. I believe she is inspirational to many designers for building her fashion empire internationally even before she sold the majority stake to the Neiman Marcus Group. I love how her designs are always fun and refreshing as they reflected her colourful and whimsical personality. She is truly a style icon in her own ways in this modern and fast-paced world.”
Dato' Sri Dr Farah Khan
Creative director of Farah Khan
"Kate Spade has left an important message to all of us: It is very important for us to reach out and communicate distress to our close ones so we can be emotionally supported before it is too late. She was a very talented individual. RIP."
Founder and CEO of BritishIndia
“I am shocked at her sudden passing. She created a brand that was uniquely hers and designed clothes that the world wears. She is truly a stylemaker in the fashion industry.”
Creative director of Alia Bastamam
“Although I’ve never owned a piece of Kate Spade, I’ve always enjoyed seeing her quirky, novelty pieces. They’re always bright, full of life and happy. It’s sad to think how the happiest ideas came from someone who hid her emotional and mental troubles. But let’s always remember her as an inspiration who left behind a great legacy.”
Ung Yiu Lin
Founder of ShoesShoesShoes and KLutched
“Kate Spade was known for quirky, fun and happy-go-lucky brand. It’s a brand that people associated with her personality. It’s so sad and unfortunate that many of us out there feel the pressure to live up to people’s expectations, and feel that they’re alone. Let her passing be a reminder that while many of us struggle with our internal demons, we need to realise that help is always there – and there’s always someone to talk to. Her passing will bring awareness to the importance of mental health to us all. RIP, Kate Spade.”
Quotes compiled by Diana Khoo, Anandhi Gopinath and Kong Wai Yeng.