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A Brand New Era For Kate Spade — With Creative Director Nicola Glass

By Kames Narayanan

Nicola Glass in her New York office.
Alvin Kean Wong
Nicola Glass in her New York office.

In September last year, Kate Spade New York bookmarked a poignant moment in the house’s 26-year-long history as it rang in the start of a new era under the helm of its newly appointed creative director, Nicola Glass.

With an impressive resume that counts tenures at the accessories departments of Gucci during Tom Ford’s reign and Michael Kors for a remarkable 12 years, Glass approached the collection with a keen understanding of the brand’s diverse consumer range and the unifying joie de vivre that brought women of all ages through its doors. What ensued was a collection where the house’s identifiable signatures, like the spade emblem, found its way back into fashion through subtle design finishes and silhouettes were cut with the ease of movement for the contemporary woman on the go.

At the brand’s New York office, T Singapore speaks with Glass to delve deeper into her method of work at Kate Spade.

KAMES NARAYANAN: What is the message that you are trying to convey to consumers with your designs for Kate Spade?

NICOLA GLASS: Kate Spade stands for optimistic femininity and it
has always been a brand that encourages its customers to embrace individuality. With this first collection, my aim was to create new products that our existing customers would hopefully find exciting and at the same time attract new customers to the brand and re-establish the affinity that some might have for the brand. For instance, a woman’s first product might have been a Kate Spade [bought] 20 years ago but she may not have found anything from the brand in the years after. I see an opportunity to bring that woman back.

KN: Do you intend to switch up the creative vocabulary here?

NG: I have really wanted to switch up the creative language but... To me, it is a brand that had such a strong DNA and a loyal customer following, it was important to have an element of taking something that was familiar but doing it in a fresh way.

For instance, floral prints have always been important in ready-to-wear but I worked with the teams in conceiving new ways to do it in perhaps in a more graphic way or with unexpected hidden details. I think the one other element that became very important was the actual spade itself. It has always been there but there was an opportunity to really highlight it and use it more. I think it is so important, especially for accessories, to find a logo that is identifiable to a brand and so I found an opportunity to develop the spade.

Kate SpadeKate Spade’s spade motif imagined as a clasp; looks are styled with multiple carryalls to cater to the contemporary lifestyles of women.
Kate Spade’s spade motif imagined as a clasp; looks are styled with multiple carryalls to cater to the contemporary lifestyles of women.

KN: Where do you find your inspiration from?

NG: This being my first collection at Kate Spade, I was inspired by a lot of the archival photography, particularly by Tim Walker. There were some amazing campaign images that I felt really captured this spirited, confident woman who spoke to me on what the brand is really about. I think Kate herself was someone who encouraged women to experiment with fashion and express their individuality. I felt that there was a lot to be taken from the past campaigns.

One, in particular, ended up inspiring the actual format of the runway show. It was an image that Tim Walker did. It was an image in an advertising campaign where a model was walking down the middle of the road and the yellow line on the road was painted on the back of her dress. We used that within the runway show. There was a glitter line on the pink carpet.

It was also a tribute to Kate Spade because one of the quotes that
 we saw used a lot to describe her was that she left a little bit of sparkle wherever she went so we used glitter instead of a yellow line. That was quite personal to me, just to speak to my journey with the brand as when
I started, I looked back before I moved forward, and I started this journey on the road with the brand.

KN: What runs through your mind when you design for Kate Spade?

NG: I think that we actually have a really broad range of customers. I think particularly with handbags because it is quite a democratic object. Women of a wide range of age groups can carry the same bag. We do think about what her life is and with this particular show, we did a lot of looks with double bags.

So we did these fabric totes so that the customer would be able to have the double bags to carry the extra things with her but still have this one bag where she can bring out with her. That was one of the elements that we were really thinking about— how is a woman living and what does she need functionally from the bags.

KN: What can we expect from Kate Spade in the future?

NG: We actually have almost 30 product categories and I didn’t even realise how many there were until I joined the company myself. In the past 10 years, Kate Spade has really blossomed into a full lifestyle brand. From ready-to-wear and accessories, it has expanded into active wear, sleep wear and home design, which in itself has many categories, and even fragrance. It is a very broad assortment.

Right now, I am not looking to expand into any new product categories. Instead, I want to explore the possibilities within the ones that already exist.

Related Story: On Set | Nicola Glass, Creative Director of Kate Spade
This interview has been edited and condensed for brevity.