Kate Spade Taught Me.
When I was 15, all I wanted was a Kate Spade bag. It was the first designer label I remember being drawn to as a teen--that is, aside from Tommy Hilfiger and Fubu. I didn’t come from a family who could afford the handbags some of my wealthy classmates could, but her intentionally feminine approach to style was the stuff dreams were made of to me. I would say, “when I grow up and get some money, I am getting every Kate Spade bag I can get.”
What Kate Spade built while she was here on earth goes beyond a higher-end accessory empire. She mastered the art of creating a brand that eloquently expressed a way of being. I was so drawn to Kate Spade because when I looked at her hand bags I realized that I could lean into my femininity and gain strength from it. I didn't have to shy away from liking pretty things to be taken seriously, and I didn't have to apologize for for being both sensitive and tough at the same damn time.
My sorority sister and friend Stephanie Samuel said it best in her IG post: Fashion can be fun and exciting, but it's not everything. Kate's sister said that Kate's pressure to maintain her image grew to be too much for her:
Kate Spade's tragic death saddened many of us, but the truth is we will never truly know what Kate was going through. Most of us will never know what it's like for a brand to become so intrinsic to what the public expects from us.
Kate taught me one important thing about personal branding: Your brand-- and by extension, your company's brand--isn't the entirety of who you are.
Branding is not just about what you can offer to others and it isn't just about answering the question, "What do you do?" Branding brings together the authentic parts of who you are and the services you provide, and the talent you naturally possess. But because we live in a consumer-driven salary, many people cannot separate a person's identity from their brand and their image. It is easy to lose yourself while creating a defining a brand that just so happens to become popular.
I said it in my Cardi B post a while back and I'll say it again here: The key to a solid brand strategy is authenticity. Leading with authenticity helps you stay grounded for sure, but it also keeps your story, messaging, and actions consistent.
This isn't to say that Kate Spade wasn't authentic--quite the opposite. If anything, her story is an example of hard it can be to admit that you are struggling when you are a public figure.
And maybe it is a lesson to the consumers too: that behind every personal brand is a human being. I can only hope that we can consume the products we buy and the services we use with that in mind.
Rest well, Kate. Thank you for being a living example of feminine power and effortless style.