In my party reporting days, I covered a birthday party that Kate Spade hosted a for their brand stylist Brad Goreski at No. 8 (formerly Bungalow 8.) Christina Ricci, who I worshipped as Wednesday, looked perfect in a shift with some sort of mushroom print. My dream mother, Kate Spade creative director Deborah Lloyd, showed up in jeans and a wool tweed jacket in the colors of Dippin Dots. She’d been designing for the label since Ms. Spade left. Read any newspaper today, and you’ll see it’s the brand to watch. Was this the woman who turned my old overpriced nylon bags you could get at a kiosk into a beautiful line I wish I could afford? Imagine my confusion when I learned Kate Spade had transformed into a beautiful clothing label. I salivated over the clothes, but the brand used to mean something drastically different to me.
I wore Kate Spade in middle school, and it looked nothing like this Kate Spade. Nothing, not one thing at that party had any discernible trace of the Kate Spade I knew. This Kate Spade was the wardrobe for a charm school refugee gallivanting off to Rome.
Before the wealthy kids, (the population of my high school minus me and eight other kids) graduated onto pricier logos, there was Kate Spade. That was what everyone needed to be cool.
I had the fashion-free black vinyl backpack, the black vinyl bag, and the black vinyl wallet. (Thank you discount designer handbag depot.) I had previously deduced that the backpack immediately made you cool before I sprang for the wallet. But the only appeal of these purchases was the “kate spade” tag on them. The backpack was too small for my huge notebooks, and my wallet was just ridiculously large enough to fit my $7 for lunch. There was a beautiful straw bag adorned with purple flowers and pistachio-colored lining, but I had no interest in that because it didn’t have the label all the other clones had. That was when I had zero style and zero sense of self, which is why I never want to see that label again, even if it’s on something I want.
I debated whether I could pull off this new Kate Spade in my head as if it were the world’s most significant political news. Here’s this for a shocker. My predicament raised a critical question that would provoke hearty laughs among people with real decisions to make. Are there others like me, in the Styleite world, who are allergic to things they loved at an awkward time they now resent? Or, as I expect, is everyone else just mature enough to understand that a label goes way beyond the ticket item the trend lemmings devour?
In my hopeless optimism, I interpreted how cool Deborah Lloyd was as proof that I should pay attention to Kate Spade, but liking the pretty things hurt my “adult” ego. At least I learned this:
1. I need to go to more parties.
2. I need to increase my standards for jackets.
I couldn’t tell where I stood that night by the way I was chucking back the whiskey cookie sandwiches and champagne. Juicy Couture extended its ambition to things I liked online with Bird, but once I knew a cool dress was Juicy Couture, I forbid myself from liking it. That’s because juicy and couture shouldn’t legally be allowed to occupy the same swatch of sentence.
Now I can almost afford the Kate Spade “let’s do lunch” business card carrier, but I’m not buying it. It’s an unfortunate cost of my weak ego. The summer collection has a vibrant energy and a sense of fun. OK, sometimes the stuff errs on the twee side, and they can even look like the clothes Blair Waldorf would churn out for her pop-up shop created to exact revenge on a tweenager. But it really is beautiful. If I’m honest with myself, I’m a sucker for pretty things, and I wish my closet was filled with their lipstick-colored toppers with bows and their graphic mod dresses. That sweatshirt they did with the doughnut covered in sprinkles on it? It called to me.
I’m sure I’ll be Roman Holiday-ing around Italy in a bottle green topper soon. It will transform me into a polished Christina Ricci-type deal instead of the imposter I feel like when I wear nice things. My coat won’t be Kate Spade though. I’m a goddamn adult. Unless they call it Kathryn Spad-ay.
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