Kate Spade ~ Forever Embroidered in This Era. Her suicide shouts out the need for compassion and change

Written for LXRandCo

Written for LXRandCo


Little did I know that I would soon be launching my career as a singer-songwriter. It was summer, the sun was shining and I didn’t task myself with too much, other than spending time with my nephew and niece and absorbing the sights and sounds of the city. Each morning, I would grab a latté and walk through Hoboken, New Jersey. Then a quick jaunt by train and I was in the hub of Manhattan. The brownstone buildings were once boarding houses, homes to many of the dockworkers, merchant mariners and seamen in this former port town. The gentrification that resulted from the urban revitalization was significant. Transition and change was happening before my eyes. There was a palpable creative energy in the air, burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit, and youthfulness that made for some very interesting people watching.

I recall begun struck by the juxtaposition of the industrial architecture, heavy and weighted against the more delicate glass storefronts styling displays of the latest hip trends. Hoboken had become the quintessential hot neighbourhood for young professionals and artists. Local designers seemed to be flocking to this suburb, which was once Frank Sinatra’s old stomping grounds.

And it was here, that I noticed all the pretty women with their sleek minimalist fashions. Ballet flats, crisp Chino pants falling just above the ankles, hair tied back into a sleek ponytail and swung over to the side, grazing the collar of a perfectly pressed button-down. Such a look would be so prescriptive, just-out-of-prep school boring, if it weren’t for the accessory that adorned these young women’s arms. I couldn’t help but be drawn to their purses. During my two week stay, I began noticing that all women were carrying these bags; they were ubiquitous.

Everywhere I turned, I saw the Kate Spade logo. In varying bright colours, different styles, Kate Spade represented this new era of women paving their own way as young professionals into a previously male dominated business world. Like the changing neighbourhood, prestige and the feeling of luxury became attainable for these women. Commuting to their Manhattan jobs, powerful and elegant, I noticed in its design and utmost simplicity that the Kate Spade purse represented strength and determination. These were the days when women began to make their mark as leaders in the business community.

But women were still trying to find their way. Where was the balance? Too aggressive and women would be crucified by other women for ‘trying to be a man’. Too passive or polite and men would take female colleagues to their lion’s den and eat them for supper. Women were finding their way through, stifled, they were just not talking about it, as shame would too often accompany rising up the ranks for the suspicion it aroused.

Moving forward, the topic is now open for public discussion. Women are charting their place, approaching a new level of comfort, and speaking their minds. Change has prevailed and Kate Spade, with her vision, creativity, work ethic, business leadership, and dedication to motherhood, is embroidered into this era. But as with any neighbourhood, architecture, art, and design, there are iterations and progressions. And while change has happened and women are freeing their voices and claiming what is theirs, in other areas there are still metaphorically older neighbourhoods that need help. Buildings that are worn out, beaten down, are awaiting for someone savvy to revitalize them. A new leader, entrepreneur, perhaps someone to carry on with Kate Spade’s legacy, who can speak out and erase the rumours and whispers of what echoes in the corridors.

Women have come along way. But the ultimate power, elegance and strength comes from opening our hearts and minds to others that may be experiencing difficulty in their lives; compassion is the catalyst for true change. Kate Spade’s reportedly tragic ending of her life, by way of suicide, is now a marked moment in time. If anything, her life will continue to represent strength and elegance, but now with a poignant vulnerability that should not go unnoticed. May the “why we are not talking about depression?” like her purses, become the latest talking piece that pushes through fashion into mainstream consciousness, so we can begin the revitalization of our own ‘neighbourhoods’.

paula toledo