For many women, their first memory of Kate Spade is often in the form of a splurge they made after receiving their first adult pay-cheque, or the penultimate birthday gift. But for Nicola Glass, Kate Spade was more of an inspiration than a must-have product. Growing up in the U.K., Glass didn't have access to the now-iconic bags women were buying in droves back in America. "I grew up in the U.K., I just didn’t have the access to it...when [Kate Spade] really became big in America, I was thinking I wanted to become a handbag designer," Glass tells Refinery29. "So I was inspired and cutting out magazine articles about her."
Fast-forward some years and Glass is now walking a mile in her own inspiration's shoes. Today marked the new Kate Spade creative director's debut for the brand. Glass joined the company in November of last year after her predecessor, Deborah Lloyd, who held the position for 10 years, made a quick exit after the company was acquired by Tapestry, Inc. While Glass' background as vice president for Michael Kors, and a designer at Gucci before that, focused on accessories, she's taken the task of overseeing the entirety of the brand.
With her ascension comes a new era for Kate Spade. Unlike the party-like presentations of seasons past, Glass brought the brand back to a runway show format that excluded brass band parades and tiered cake purses. Instead, the spring/summer 2019 show was held inside the esteemed New York Public Library where models in mod-inspired silhouettes walked down a pink runway subtly lined in glitter and carried more practical bags. But Glass' changes take on more of a back to basics attitude than an effort to tone things down. She shares: "The way I approached designing everything was very organic in that I was looking for key elements or iconic elements — going back to the core DNA of the brand — through colour, thinking of new ways to do it, or prints, establishing a new print language." The latter she's accomplished through the new collection with a continuity of spade prints, a cute ode to the brand's name and trademark icon. "I first thought to use [spades] on a bag but then they actually translated well into the ready-to-wear as well. There are ways where the spade is very bold like with a twist-lock [found on a purse] or more subtle like in a devoré silk dress with a floral pattern. At first, people probably don’t realize the spades are even there."
As for the new silhouettes, tea dresses were eschewed for long-line ones and puff sleeve tops. "With the silhouettes, I tried to really evolve it for more recent times, particularly with the dresses," she says. "I wanted to bring a more polished ease to it and add a bit more fluidity to the dress and maybe more diversity. I’m trying to appeal to both the existing customer but maybe encourage her to try something different."
In addition to creating a new future for the brand, Glass has also been tasked with honouring its past. Though its founder, Kate Spade, who passed away in June, has not been involved with the company for over a decade, her general spirit and whimsy has lived on. And Glass is making her own long-standing tribute to the late designer. "On top of redesigning all the product, I'm working on a new store concept and have also changed all the labelling on the clothing,” she explains. Inspired by the iconic tale of Spade painstakingly hand-stitching all of her bag labels from the interior to the exterior the night before her brand's official launch, Glass felt moved to renew the sentiment. “There’s a new label that’s this beautiful pink with a deep dark green ‘Kate Spade’ [on it]," she says. They can be found on select handbags and ready-to-wear pieces.
As the first show since Spade's passing, the brand honored its founder with a sweet plaque left on each show goer's seat, summing up her legacy with a sentiment that best defines her: "She left a little sparkle everywhere she went."