Kate Spade - A Kansas City Treasure
Photo from Frances Valentine
Kate Spade was 435 Magazine’s first cover girl and since then we have continued to follow her success in the fashion industry, admiring her tight grasp to her Midwestern roots and talent as not only a designer, but a formidable business woman who built a fashion empire.
On the first day of summer, June 21, Spade came home to Kansas City for one last time. Her funeral at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish Redemptories Church (where her grandparents were married) was described as beautiful and “Kate like” as a host of bright coral peonies graced the front of the church. The service started with an announcement that Spade’s 89-year-old father Earl Brosnahan had passed away the night before.
Spade, a Kansas City native (Kate Brosnahan) grew up in Brookside with four sisters and one brother and attended high school at St. Teresa’s Academy graduating in 1981. Nan Bone, St. Teresa Academy President, said Spade last visited the campus during the 150th anniversary celebration of St. Teresa’s in 2016. Bone called Spade inspiring. “As an all-female school, educating and empowering young women to confidently strive to reach their goals, as Kate did, is one of our primary objectives.”
After high school, Kate continued on to become a Jayhawk and later transferred to Arizona State University where she completed a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and met her future husband Andy Spade. She began her career working as an accessories editor at Mademoiselle magazine. Co-worker and friend from that era, Elizabeth Kiester, describes Kate as “human champagne.”
“Bubbly, effervescent, intoxicatingly delightful. Sunshine radiated through her smile, her contagious laugh, her generosity of spirit. Her bags were like her--everyone's best friend--personable, cheerful, friendly, and without a hint of pretentiousness. She became an icon, a role model and a beacon in the world of fashion that is not always so warm and inviting. She turned everything we knew about the exclusivity of high fashion on its head and we followed along, happily, colorfully and enthusiastically. She was Fashion's Pied Piper.”
Kate Spade New York was created in January of 1993 by Kate and her husband. The high end department store Halls in Kansas City was the very first retailer to pick up the iconic line. President and CEO Kelly Cole valued the relationships Halls kept with Spade saying, “Kate was a dynamo of talent, creativity and savviness in the fashion industry. As one of the first stores to sell her brands, Halls has shared a long standing partnership and friendship with her for which we are most grateful. Her legacy will be remembered within the Halls community for years to come.”
Kate Spade sold her company in 2006 for $125 million. In 2016 she launched a new company called Frances Valentine. In an interview with 435 back in 2016 Spade described the line as being influenced by home. "It's a collection of so many women in my family and friends." Today the company’s website has a banner saying many of the items are currently sold out for weeks.
Spade died on June 5 from death by suicide. She was 55. Andy Spade said his wife suffered from depression and anxiety for years and was receiving medical treatment. At the time of Kate’s death, they were not living together. Kate leaves behind a 13-year-old daughter Frances Beatrix.
Kate Spade New York is donating $1 million towards suicide prevention and mental health awareness causes in tribute to their company’s late founder. Spade's family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or to Wayside Waifs.