I Didn't Care About Fashion Until I Got My First Kate Spade Bag

I had never considered myself to be a stylish person. When I was young, I assumed that I'd grow to be a strong woman, the kind who used her brain and put fashion in second place. In my young mind, I wasn't able to juggle finding my place and finding my style all at once. As a result, I spent a long time feeling like I didn't have my own style — until I saw a Kate Spade bag for the very first time.

I was 16 when I saw it. It was a classic shape, mid-sized, and very practical. Except for the color, of course: This bag was a vivid, glorious pink. For a Catholic school student whose understanding of fashion was limited to the muddy-colored plaid I was forced to wear (and the black and brown professional clothing I'd assumed I'd wear in adulthood), it felt like one of those moments when you see a stranger and feel, for some indescribable reason, like they’re an old friend. Until I saw that Kate Spade bag, I didn’t know what my style was — but in an instant, I did.

It wasn't until I was 22 when I got my own first Kate Spade handbag as a college graduation present from my mom, a Cameron Street Candace purse, the classic Kate Spade shape and size. Like the one I'd seen years before, it was pink, and was the perfect balance of whimsical, professional, and intentional — the combination I always thought couldn't exist.

Heading straight to grad school, I couldn’t exactly afford a closet full of Kate Spade designs, but I pored over the website and catalogs, taking careful note of every detail and modeling my style after the brand. I felt a kinship what I was looking at that went beyond simply liking the clothes. It didn’t hurt that Kate Spade (the person) and I shared an alma mater, Arizona State University, and that Kate Spade (the brand) debuted the same year I was born. I felt like this was the style that was meant for me, that I’d been looking for forever.

Entering into adulthood, it became a tradition for me to get a Kate Spade piece at important milestones in my life: A pair of glam earrings for the debut of a musical I wrote, a wallet for a new job. These luxuries never failed to make me absolutely giddy, and I realize now that it’s because Kate Spade taught me what it meant to take joy in style and make it my own. Before Kate Spade, I felt I could only prize my mind and my accomplishments if I dismissed my appearance. Discovering new Kate Spade items made me realize, over time, that I could reflect all my idiosyncrasies in how I dressed — both to myself and to the world around me. And most importantly, it felt fun. Getting a Kate Spade piece felt like growing up — but with a wink that said “we’re all still having a good time here, and isn’t that wonderful?”

Just last week, I got another Kate Spade bag, this time to celebrate getting my Master’s degree. This one is black nylon, with a bow on the front. This week, I mourn her passing, and find myself getting emotional when I think about how much Kate Spade — the woman and the brand — mean to me. Kate Spade clothing and accessories showed me what it meant to have style, that I could wear bright colors and patterns without sacrificing our power or polish. I could be multitudes, all at once.