Years ago (oh, I would say about twelve years to be exact) I got my first Kate Spade bag. It was a black square tote and took me two and half months of intern pay to scrape together the cash for it. But omg, I will never forget the feeling of throwing my books, wallet, flip flops, snacks, scarf, sunglasses with room for so much more over my shoulder and whizzing around New York City. I felt so... NYC.
Cut to May of 2010, when in to the Kate Spade 5th Ave store for a random visit. I wouldn't describe my style to be anything but rocker profesh (skull jewelry, dark nail polish, rivited boots and skinny jeans all have permanent places in my closet), but somehow this Connecticut preppy WASP chic drew me in like a magpie to shiny things. Hello bedazzled, jewel encrusted shift dress! %$^&*(! flats with brightly colored pom poms! AND wow, am I really drooling over this 1960s (early) style lucite bead necklace?? I felt like I was an intern again. In a good way.
A couple of weeks ago I met with Bill McComb, president and ceo of Liz Claiborne. As he showed me and a colleague how LIZ was at one point just a bunch of brand silos and now (under his direction) departments finally talk to each other, I finally grasped what the company was trying to do with their brands. Cut to The 1Q earnings call on May 10th where McComb pointed out how Kate Spade along with Lucky Brand Jeans, MEXX and Juicy Couture have been seeing continued momentum with Kate Spade and Lucky Brand Jeans reporting positive retail comps. McComb expects this momentum to continue into 2Q.
What's helped the Kate Spade brand so much? Definitely the re-design of the flagship store on 5th Ave. (the stripes on the front of the store were design overkill), but credit really belongs to Deborah Lloyd who took over as creative director and co- president when Kate and Andy Spade left in 2007. No more wicker blah handbags. So long brightly colored no shape skirts and dresses. The iconic tote which made Kate Spade a household name and staple for all counterfeit stands in Chinatown? Gone. Instead the store as well as the products exude a WASP/ prep lifestyle that in the past I would have sprinted far away from, now taps into my whole Jackie O obsession. According to McComb, "the Kate Spade customer is well defined. She knows exactly who she is and how her clothes represent those ideals." If those ideals mean I can pretend I vacation in Newport, Rhode Island, attended Miss Porters and have a politico husband who went to Harvard, when I throw on a dress I'll for sure take it!