by Netanel Saso
VAR Fellow Netanel Saso explores what Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain’s brands mean to her, and interviews 15 women on the streets of Manhattan to find out how Kate Spade impacted them as well.
Visual Arts Reimagined was designed to focus on creative entrepreneurship, and as a current fellow at VAR with a plan to start my own business embedded in the arts, the loss of entrepreneurs Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain really hit home. What always catches my attention are the stories of how small brands rise to success, and the fact that Kate Spade as a brand grew after the creation of just one handbag, and that Anthony Bourdain turned his passion into his job much later on in his life, is truly inspirational. Once I heard about the loss of Kate Spade, I immediately contacted my friends, and stopped any woman that I could on the streets of New York with a Kate Spade item, and asked them to share their story about why they love the brand. A lot of the responses that I received reminded me that Kate Spade goes beyond a tactile object, as most of the women I talked to associated the brand with the first designer bag they ever got from their mothers. The fact that the brand has the ability to shapeshift from being a staple piece in a woman’s closet, to being a symbol or memory of a significant point of a woman’s development and relationship to their mother at an early age, is truly what a brand should strive to do.
What I love about Kate Spade as a brand, is how it is multigenerational. Growing up, I always saw my mother with Kate Spade bags, and because of her, I slowly started getting into the brand my senior year of high school too. I remember that I was juggling homework, college applications, and a part time job that seemed like a full time job all at once, and my mother wanted to get me a gift that would remind me to slow down. She was well aware that Kate Spade made novelty bags, but when she saw that one of their novelty bags was a wicker snail, she did everything she could to find it because it was no longer in stores. She looked at every resale website possible until she tracked down one of the snail bags on Poshmark, and later on gifted it to me. Little did my mom know that the sweetest gift she ever gave me would make me obsessed with Kate Spade. I never thought that I would be able to walk around with a snail bag and feel comfortable, but boy was I wrong! There is a certain kind of confidence that Kate Spade as a brand exudes, and at a time where I was worried about getting into colleges, I needed to have a bit of humor literally on my side to take me away from being stuck inside of my head. The fact that a brand represents this piercing side to every personality, is perhaps why so many women are drawn to Kate Spade.
Many of the women I stopped on the street told me that they were actually not into flashy brands. As an arts major, I have always been interested in why the Kate Spade logo has no capital letters in it. At first, I figured that though Kate Spade was the mastermind behind the brand, she did not want her name to overpower the name of the woman who would purchase an item from her. The logo might have even been aimed at women feeling as though they could be one of Kate Spade’s friends or literally just like Kate Spade when they grow up. After a bit of research, myself and a colleague discovered that lowercase letters go hand in hand with depression. This secret message that is ingrained into every single one of her bags could only be deciphered after her death. As the full story was right in front of her consumer’s eyes all along, fans might now feel a little uneasy. Though the brand now carries much more of a weight with it, there is a sort of beauty and sense of closure that
can be placed in how even though Kate Spade sold her brand, she never truly gave it all away.
Not only has Kate Spade projected herself onto objects that will outlive her, but so has Anthony Bourdain, through filming every person he has gotten to interact with throughout different regions. All across the world cultural food is revered, however in America a relatively young country, our food is merely adopted. Anthony Bourdain traveled to multiple different countries throughout his tv show series Parts Unknown, and never refused a single dish that was offered to him. He traveled to each location, open to anything, which is critical for an entrepreneur. Because he said yes to anything and everything that came his way, he played a major role for many of his young viewers, as he was an advocate for trying new foods, and learning about other cultures. Not only did Anthony show viewers what he learned, but he took them on the journey with him, and because of that, just as kate spade took a back seat alongside her branding, both entrepreneurs became humanitarians.
Below is a slide show of 15 women with their Kate Spade bags and their statements on what they love about her brand.‘