NYFW SS19: Kate Spade Talks to WWD
All Photos Taken By: Sanglui Azang-Njaah
Kate Spade’s CEO Anna Bakst & Creative Director Nicola Glass sit down with Lisa Lockwood Of WWD at the Samsung 837 for WWD NYFW The Style Dimension Series. The Style Dimension starts with a rerun of Kate Spade fashion show that was held earlier at 11am. Many of us gathered in attendance eager to hear about the new direction of the brand since founder Kate Brosnahan’s suicide in June.
Models walked a pale pink carpet lined with silver glitter before stepping onto large white center pieces behind each section of guests. In pastels and knee high chunky boots, with a Spade printed on every design.
Once the show was finished, Lockwood Bakst, and Glass all walked out taking their seats in front of the crowd. Lockwood begins the panel by congratulating Glass on her first runway show before diving straight into her questions.
Glass tells us about how she joined the brand in January and had the opportunity to work besides Brosnahan before her passing. “I felt like I didn’t need to change a course because everything was really inspired by her to begin with that idea of joy optimism and sparkle is something that is very core to the brand and has been there always.”
“If you saw there was a glitter line across this pink carpet,” Glass talks about the layout of the runway, saying after the founder’s passing, many heartfelt tributes were made to honor the founder. “One phrase that kept standing out was ‘she left a little sparkle everywhere she went.’ And, We decided to use that phrase in the runway presentation.”
When asked about the vision of the future of Kate Spade, Glass talked about the importance of honoring the late Brosnahan. “For this first collection I was really inspired by the DNA of the brand the print sensibility and having something that is quiet identifiable to your brand.” She continued by saying "By establishing those iconic elements like the spade, I truly feel that we’ve, only, scratched the surface with what we can do with that.”
Glass touches on the fact that she wants each collection to have a flow with each acting as foundation for the next. Bakst chimed in to tell us about how Glass always says, “okay guys all we have to do is make the next collection even better.”
Bakst shared that her and Glass have been working together for over 12 years, prior to Kate Spade and stressed the importance of having a positive work relationship with your creative director. To understand their work style and learn where you can help them, while also being able to be a strong supporter and encourager for them.
There was a lot of smiles and laughter between Kate Spade’s CEO & Creative Director that provides an even more cozy to the atmosphere. You could tell Bakst & Glass truly did enjoy work alongside of each other. Lockwood also informed us that both Bakst & Glass were identical twins.
Bakst expressed that since the brand’s new partnership with Tapestry a luxury house, Kate Spade plans on opening up 15 more stores a year.
Four models stepped on to the floor to show us some of the new Kate Spade clothing designs. Glass explained that she wanted to do more with the logo, by creatively hiding spades patterns while also hiding positive sentences into the designs of some of the dresses.
“How do you define who you target audience is? And what’s the best way to reach her?” Lockwood asks, after mentioning the amount of success Kate Spade has had with millennial customers and how they are the current driving force behind the high growth rates the company has been achieving.
Glass replies, “Our customer, she is in love with life and she has a sense of purpose.” Continuing on to say, “we think of her more as a mindset and not a demographic even though we track the age range of customers. We find that a woman might first be discovering the brand when she’s buying her first iphone getting a tech piece or when she’s registering for some home wear when she's getting married or just treating herself to a new handbag. so there’s really quiet a broad range of our customer.”
Lockwood then follows up by asking, “Where does she (the consumer) like to shop? Is she more of an in store or online?”
“She’s both,” Bakst answers before saying that Kate Spade wants to be a brand that can also in both places.
“As a brand we do well with millennial and I think it’s because we have a really strong digital presence.” Bakst continues. “We are just naturally storytellers, and we finding that the digital platforms to be great for that. Our fasting growing platform for followers happens to be youtube.”
Bakst then informs Lockwood that Kate Spade has plans to consolidate down to just one label the original, Kate Spade New York. With no plans of expanding their Home & Furniture sections, as the brand is still transitioning in establishing the new design aesthetic.
Soon the floor opened up for questions. Asking the first one, I raised me hand. Introducing myself, I congratulated Glass on her new position and asked, “If this was your first runway, how were your nerves?”
“I was really nervous. i’m very nervous.” she tells me. “Lucky about six weeks ago we had an internal runway show for all of the employees at Kate spade so It was about for 400 people. and it was actually a really great trial run for me so it was quiet similar foundation to show that you just saw with the clothes. but then this past week I had been working with the team and we started restyling it and changing it but it did mean that I had a little bit of foundation going in but we started to add some other elements sunglasses scarves and jewelry. but yeah, I couldn’t sleep last night.”
As the mic floated around Samsung 837 many arose asking excited to ask the CEO & Creative Director their questions.
Q: This might be like picking your favorite child, but do you have a favorite design this season?
NG: “The Nicola bag in the dark green wit the black twist lock. When we designated the Nicola collection the idea was that there would be a bag for every woman.”
AB: “I haven’t taken this bag off since Nicola gave it to me. But definitely, the lavender boots. Am I the only one fantasizing about wearing them?” the crowd agreed with her.
Q: “It is becoming a more digital age and people tend to be more isolated yet, you say you’re planning on opening up 15 more stores. What is your strategy for getting the consumer out?”
AB: “I don’t know if we’re seeing the consumer as becoming more isolated. I think what we’re seeing is the customer has many different paths to engaging wit the brand or to purchasing your product. and we need to be covered in multiple pathes. and no matter what the customer particularly for higher priced items or accessories or a leather hand bag. at some point she’s usually touching and feeling it. so yes there is discover but this also discover physically. I think that you need both and we’re doing both.”
Q: “How long would you say your design process is when it comes from processing a collection from start to finish?”
Bakst steps in to say, “if you’re doing 4 collections a year its 3 months.” While Glass says “8-9 months.” for a true start to finish on one collection.
Q: “Do you feel like as a brand you have a desire to bring awareness to mental health?”
AB: “Yes, and I think that all of us at Kate spade we feel an incredible responsibility to honor her legacy in many ways. in terms of mental health startly afterwards Kate spade donated 1M to mental illness & suicide prevention (clarifies that not all of the money has been given out but will be over the next few months) and what was is amazing is, the initial donation was 250k to a crisis hotline there were so many people who wanted do something to pay tribute to Kate, to be apart of the solution and what we did was a matching. where we put a simple sign in the stores said please donate over the next 10 days we will match and we raised 100k. it needs to continue and we’ve started a wellness program in her name to encourage people to seek help. medication wellness there’s a lot of things we can do to take care of ourselves.”
Q: “What advice would you have for someone who wants to become a designer?”
NG: “It took me a while to discover what I wanted to do so I very briefly studied architecture jewelry design, I then specialized in making leather hand bags. looking back I was quite nervous in and didn’t really know where I was going but now I realize it all it don’t be afraid about not knowing what you want to do and just follow your passion.”
Q: “How do you feel about collaborating with influencers?”
AB: “We are not against it! It has to feel authentic and very genuine with the brand.”
Before closing out, Bakst addressed the crowd informing them about how important it is be a positive support and encouragement to others. Saying that had she known how loving the Kate Spade work environment was she would’ve applied sooner!
“We do support woman and to raise the economically being in our communities and we have a side mission in Rwanda. I think there is a lot thing companies can do help improve from the environment to the empowering.” Bakst said before encouraging us all to challenge one another.
Clapping and cheering the, the people cleared their seats rushing to talk to Bakst & Glass who eagerly embraced their supporters.
It is clear that the Kate Spade brand will continue to honor former founder Kate Brosnahan, and I am excited to see how the brand will continue to promote positivity and fashion while also help to bring more awareness to mental health within the fashion industry.