Starting her fashion career as an accessories editor at Mademoiselle, Spade saw a gap in the market she knew she could fill. She began a line of stylish, practical handbags, and she and her husband Andy launched a company – kate spade – to market the line. The company went on to expand into an acclaimed line that included luggage, shoes, eyewear, stationary and a home collection. Spade has earned awards such as Best Accessories Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 1998 and an Elle Decor International Design Award in 2004.
Following an eight year hiatus, Kate and Andy launched a brand new line of shoes and handbags under the label Frances Valentine in 2015.
At Spade’s induction into the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, her brother, Earl Brosnahan, shared an early memory of his successful sister.
“Looking back, Kate demonstrated early on what would later become her iconic personality traits: quiet determination, passion for the things she loved and dedication to overcoming obstacles,” Brosnahan said.
He went on to describe a summer camp Kate formed in junior high.
“She signed up about a dozen kids whose parents were thrilled to have them out of the house,” he said. “Kate meticulously designed the pamphlets, activities, menu and venue, and turned our backyard into a bone fide day care with arts and crafts, games, and competitions.”
This camp led to Kate’s very first business profit, and led her to seek financial self-sufficiency through jobs at Kansas City brands like Jack Henry.
After completing her college degree at Arizona State, and meeting her future husband Andy, Spade decided to move to New York City following graduation and landed the job with Mademoiselle.
“One day in 1992 I got a phone call from Kate; ’I’ve decided to leave the magazine and start a handbag company,’” Brosnahan quoted. “Initially stunned, I pledged my support, then promptly called my wife to say, ‘hope we’re not sending them money in six months.’ The lesson here: never judge the flower in the bud!”
Over time, Spade went from stuffing boxes in her apartment, to having lunch at the White House, to having her name on one of the world’s most recognizable brands. She has certainly owned her space in the Bloch Entrepreneur Hall of Fame.
To see videos, view artifacts and learn more about the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame inductees, visit the Hall on the main floor of the Henry W. Bloch Executive Hall for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.