Kate Spade and Fashion’s Identity Crisis: When a Name Makes a Brand
By Tiffany Hsu // The New York Times, June 6, 2018
Soon after fans of Kate Spade learned that the designer had died in an apparent suicide on Tuesday, stunned customers remembered the handbags they purchased after their first big promotion, or the linens they were given for their first home, or the onesies in which they dressed their babies.
Many wondered how the Kate Spade label would fare without Kate Spade.
Ms. Spade, though, hadn’t had a role there for more than a decade. By the time of her death, Kate Spade New York had passed from owner to owner, transforming from an accessible luxury to an oft-counterfeited commodity and an outlet mall mainstay.
But all the while, her identity — the smile, the beehive, the colorful dresses — remained a big part of the brand’s appeal to customers.
“She had such resonance that, even though she wasn’t overtly present, she gave customers an emotional connection to the business, sustained it through the memory of what she stood for,” said Wendy Liebmann, the chief executive of the WSL Strategic Retail consultancy. “That’s what really carried their success, however diminished, over the past ten years. But the illusion is now no longer.”
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