Kate Spade, Handbag Designer Whose Simple but Elegant

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Kate Spade is the handbag designer whose simple but elegant purses have spawned countless knockoffs.

Katherine Noel Brosnahan grew up in Kansas City before moving to New York in 1986 to take a job at Mademoiselle editing the mag’s accessories section. Seven years later, sensing a demand for stylish but practical purses, she launched her own line of nylon bags and the Kate Spade collection was born. In 1996, Spade opened a flagship boutique and that same year she took home a CFDA award. She quickly became one of the hottest handbag designers in the country. In 2006 Liz Claiborne acquired the entire company. Although Kate remains on the board of the company she founded, she stepped down from day-to-day management in July 2007.

Once considered the ultimate in preppy chic, the brand lost some luster as their boxy shape is a dream come true for counterfeiters and Midwesterners who troll Canal Street. But Spade isn’t likely to be bemoaning her mass-market appeal. It’s allowed her to happily plaster her name on virtually every product under the sun, from eyewear to stationery to her menswear line Jack Spade. She even designed the flight attendants’ uniforms for Song airlines several years ago, and limited edition strollers for Maclaren.

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