Kate Spade’s Creative Director On The Polished Ease Of The Brand’s New Chapter

It’s the American label that offers joyful, playful chic for the everyday woman, but what happens when you don’t just want to be “cute”? Kate spade’s new creative director Nicola Glass tells Keng Yang Shuen what she’s adding to the brand’s lexicon.

Practicality

To Glass, a modern woman wants stylish pieces that aren’t complicated. The term she used was “polished ease”, and it’s reflected in the collection’s flowy, ’70s-inspired coats, blouses and dresses. Each piece in that last category — many of which are fuss-free yet elegant midi length — is designed to be all-in-one, with just the right amount of decorative details like gently ruffled sleeves or a cowl neck, taking the wearer from day-to-night easily.

That same pragmatic approach applies to the brand’s well-loved bags. On its catwalk last September, models strode down armed with a cross-body style and a larger tote or bucket bag. Glass’ reasoning? “Most women need a small, stylish bag that’s able to hold their phones, keys, wallet — the essentials. At the same time, we also usually carry a bigger bag such as a tote to hold work or gym stuff, so this idea of an everyday woman carrying two bags is something that was reflected in a lot of the runway looks.”

Nicola Glass

Refinement

Glass’ strength is in accessories — she studied jewellery design before joining Gucci (during its Tom Ford era) and Michael Kors in their accessories department. While the brand’s been a favourite for its made-for-everyday bags livened up by fun colours, hardware is what she’s using to distinguish her designs. “(Our hardware) can be done in a bold or subtle way, whether it’s (in the form of) a beautiful enamelled heart, twist-lock or key-rings. They all have this three-dimensional side profile that’s a nod to the shape of the spade (the house symbol), which is where my background in jewellery has really helped,” she says.

Also expect upgraded finishes and more complicated techniques to be used on the leather goods. These include scratch-proof coating, as well as the latticework of spade motifs seen all over the Dorie bucket bag, one of collection’s key styles.

Restraint

The Kate Spade brand is synonymous with playfulness, even cuteness (who can ignore its whimsical novelty bags?). Glass intends to retain that fun factor, but in a subtler, more sophisticated way. For example, what seems like bold polka dots on a bohemian silk dress are in fact retro clover prints up close. “I love this idea that the customer would discover these details (on her own)... a sense of intimacy mixed with novelty,” says Glass.

Modernity

Further putting her own cool spin on the label’s chic and cheery aesthetic, Glass’ debut collection introduces an eclectic pairing of colours — a candy floss pink translucent trenchcoat over a sunflower yellow pussy-bow dress, for example. “(The brand’s always been known for colour) and I wanted to do it in a more unexpected way... to add diversity,” she says.

Even her approach to logomania is decidedly fresh, centring around the brand’s spade motif. It’s the key hardware on the Nicola shoulder bag — rendered as small as a bead or slightly oversized for variety — and even graces the perspex heels of sandals. Says Glass: “Many brands look for a logo that carries their name... and sometimes it’s hard to tell what brand it is... So I really wanted to explore the spade (instead).”

Inclusivity

Appealing to different customers is one of Glass’ main tenets. It explains her range of silhouettes and diverse play with colour and the spade motif. She’s also made sure that while she’s improved on quality, prices — particularly of the bags — remain the same as before. “I like the fact that (our products are) at an accessible price point that reaches a broad range of women,” she says. “This really strong message of embracing all types of women is something that leads back to the roots of the brand, and (we) will continue to be known for doing that.”

This story first appeared in Female's March 2019 issue.

This article is originally published on Female Singapore.

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