A KATE SPADE bag was a lot of things. Dur­ing the late '90s, when Prada ny­lon made its de­but, the Kate Spade bag was of a sim­ple rec­tan­gu­lar shape, with two shoul­der straps and a black fab­ric la­bel with her name and the city she loved: Kate Spade New York. This bag was in­cred­i­bly dis­tinct and made such an im­pres­sion on the fash­ion, con­sumer and re­tail au­di­ences. They weren't even leather, but were an ab­so­lute sen­sa­tion. With Kate's un­for­tu­nate re­cent pass­ing, there was such an out­pour­ing from women about how her bags were sym­bolic of a stylis­tic rite of pas­sage. Fond mem­o­ries were shared of their first Kate Spade bag – their first fash­ion item. I had two: a faux leop­ard print one and a black satin one. When worn on the shoul­der, they sat in the per­fect place­ment above the waist­line. Only a woman who knows ac­ces­sories would know of the magic of such place­ment.

Two years ago, I met Kate dur­ing her sec­ond life­time in the busi­ness with her new brand, Frances Valen­tine. She had in­vited us to lunch at her stu­dio in a beau­ti­ful sun­lit space over­look­ing Bryant Park. We were in early busi­ness-part­ner­ship days and Kate wanted to per­son­ally meet the Lane Craw­ford team. There were flower ar­range­ments ev­ery­where; lunch was per­fectly catered and served on plates with colour­ful de­signs. The fur­ni­ture and dec­o­ra­tive touches were all thought­ful and de­tail-ori­ented. It was a mat­ter of good taste and we were re­minded why Kate Spade the brand would see the suc­cess that it did. It all boils down to taste.

Kate came into the room with dark sun­glasses on, apol­o­gis­ing. Her friend had just passed. The sun­glasses stayed on the en­tire meal. Bless her for mak­ing the ef­fort to come; she could have just stayed in bed. She had such a pres­ence in the room. She wasn't leading all of the con­ver­sa­tion, but her voice was strong, with a New York drawl. She was just miss­ing a mar­tini in hand. There wasn't any­thing con­ven­tional about her. She was kind of glam­orous from an­other era.

Frances Valen­tine is an ac­ces­sories col­lec­tion that's pre­dom­i­nantly shoes with some hand­bags. They're colour­ful and spirited, with chic sil­hou­ettes. I re­mem­ber find­ing it odd that her col­leagues weren't par­tic­u­larly ginger with her emo­tional state. It seemed like just an­other or­di­nary day at the of­fice. This was hard to digest when such an­i­mated shoes and pho­to­graphs dec­o­rated the space. How dif­fer­ent would it have been if she had a phys­i­cal ail­ment that had vis­ual signs: an open wound or a rash? The re­ac­tion would have run along the lines of “Let's find you some help, im­me­di­ately!” from a group of re­tail buy­ers who were com­plete strangers be­fore this meet­ing.

Kate Spade had such a dis­tinct vi­sion and point of view that the in­dus­try saw the in­fi­nite pos­si­bil­i­ties and con­tin­ued to in­vest in her name, even though she wasn't in­volved. I've al­ways won­dered how she felt about that. Let us be re­minded that check­ing in is key. Let's make sure that love is felt and that the dark­ness and de­spair doesn't take over. Let's al­ways make the time. The mind is in­cred­i­bly strong and frag­ile. Ask­ing for help is a step in the right di­rec­tion. All of us can learn from this ex­change.

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