June 7, 2018

"It was a tribute to the idea of East Coast preppy culture, a love note to Salinger and Cheever, to the Kennedys, and to the early ’60s..."

"[Kate Spade] ads had the confidence and charm of a Wes Anderson film, a few years before Rushmore made his style instantly recognizable. They’d taken a love of WASP-y Americana and merged it with a winking downtown irony, in a formula that brands like J.Crew and Tory Burch would later emulate with great success. In retrospect, it’s hard to appreciate how cool those simple handbags were.... Everything about that year in my life felt vivid, even though I only worked in retail and went to college. I lived a few blocks north of the store, in an apartment with two rooms and no bathroom sink. Outside of the shop, life might have been chaotic, but inside, everything was calm and under control. I loved going to work and was never bored, even when it was just me and Julia, my store manager, listening to Joni Mitchell and eating peppermints while we waited for customers...."

From "Remembering the Magic of Kate Spade" by Stella Bugbee (New York Magazine).

Reading that made me think and the first thing that I saw was the sun through yellow curtains and a rainbow on the wall/Blue, red, green and gold to welcome you, crimson crystal beads to beckon....

And I once lived in a NYC apartment that had no bathroom sink. (There was a big, claw-footed bathtub, and leaning over it to wash hands or brush teeth became the norm. And I must have put in my contact lenses there. That's the hardest thing to picture. I guess I put the rubber plug in the drain and went for it.)

29 comments:

David Begley said...

Kate was from Kansas City.

tim in vermont said...

What a great era to be nostalgic for! Now let’s change everything about it but the clothes!

rehajm said...

That was lovely.

Meade said...

"And I once lived in a NYC apartment that had no bathroom sink. (There was a big, claw-footed bathtub, and leaning over it to wash hands or brush teeth became the norm. And I must have put in my contact lenses there. That's the hardest thing to picture. I guess I put the rubber plug in the drain and went for it.)"

Yeah well be glad you were in NYC. When I lived in California, we had to choose: brush your teeth, wash your hands, or put in your contacts... but NOT ON THE SAME DAY! It was THE LAW.

roesch/voltaire said...

When I lived in NYC on 7 th between C and D the best thing was the roster crow in the morning and the beer after work on the way home at McSorelys, and jazz at the Five Spot punctured on the weekend but it was a big overwhelming city and I had my bouts of depression.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

"whose work with her husband opened up my mind for the better" - Could it be that her husband Andy Spade was the great handbag designer? Maybe he created the cheery bags to cheer up his gloomy wife.

Ann Althouse said...

""whose work with her husband opened up my mind for the better" - Could it be that her husband Andy Spade was the great handbag designer? Maybe he created the cheery bags to cheer up his gloomy wife."

Great idea for the fictionalized version of the story. And in the end she kills herself because she never really had a career and felt like a fraud. The cheerfulness of his earnest designs freaked her out, and his grand gestures of love only exacerbated her feeling of inadequacy as she did not love him even after all he did for her. She only felt diminished and replaced by a name brand that was bizarrely, her name.

I'm not saying that about the real Kate Spade, just sketching out a character for a novel inspired by what I know and don't know about the story.

Fernandinande said...

it’s hard to appreciate how cool those simple handbags were..

Quite true.

Mid-Life Lawyer said...

I decided to go to law school while running along the East River in June of 2007. This was my second visit the NYC; the first visit was in 2003 when I flew in on Halloween to run the NYC Marathon a few days later. My plan was to go to law school in New York, then practice there. It got complicated because my 13 year old was with me most of the time and I ultimately backed off the NYC idea due to visitation etc. and dragging her that far off from the rest of her family. I ended up moving to Oxford, MS, two and a half hours from my home in W. TN. This article reminds me of why I fell in love with that city and I will probably always feel like I missed out my not spending significant time there. My daughter was with me on that trip and she loved it too. I bought her and my wife Kate Spade purses for Christmas this year.

Ken B said...

Did The Swimmer feature such a handbag?

William said...

I never knew that there was this much of a mystique about handbags. Womb symbols? My womb is more opulent and fecund than that of those other girls. Unlike phallic symbols, womb symbols nourish and enhance life. It's literally impossible to spend too much money on womb symbols........Can the right handbag change a woman's mood? Can just working in a store that sells the right handbag make you happier and more positive about life? Can someone explain the priorities between designer shoes and designer handbags?

Ken B said...

Why a novel? Somerset Maugham could have done in 20 pages. Chekhov or Maupassant in 12.

Ken B said...

William
Handbags are powerful, beautiful, nurturing, and honest.

Meade said...

"Handbags are powerful, beautiful, nurturing, and honest."

So are hand baskets. Just try not going to hell in one would be my only advice.

Sebastian said...

"it’s hard to appreciate how cool those simple handbags were.... Everything about that year in my life felt vivid"

Finally, after all these years, we discover What Women Want.

J. E. Malthaus said...

"whose work with her husband opened up my mind for the better" - Could it be that her husband Andy Spade was the great handbag designer? Maybe he created the cheery bags to cheer up his gloomy wife."

Not the same dynamic, but related (from Wiki):

"Big Eyes" is a 2014 American biographical drama film directed by Tim Burton... The film is about the life of American artist Margaret Keane—famous for drawing portraits and paintings with big eyes. It follows the story of Margaret and her husband, Walter Keane, who took credit for Margaret's phenomenally successful and popular paintings in the 1950s and 1960s. It follows the lawsuit (and trial) between Margaret and Walter, after Margaret reveals she is the real artist behind the big eyes paintings.

And speaking of spouses and art: I would like to think Yoko Ono wrote the lyrics to 'Imagine'. Because then I can blame her, and cut her asshole husband some slack.

-LWL

Rick.T. said...

How I Built This with Kate Spade

https://one.npr.org/?sharedMediaId=513311127:513326948

Follow up after her death:

https://www.npr.org/2018/06/05/617248846/remembering-kate-spade

Jupiter said...

Mid-Life Lawyer said...
"This article reminds me of why I fell in love with that city and I will probably always feel like I missed out my not spending significant time there."

Unless you are filthy rich, you didn't miss a god-damned thing.

MacMacConnell said...

"It was a tribute to the idea of East Coast preppy culture, a love note to Salinger and Cheever, to the Kennedys, and to the early ’60s...""

Kate Spade is a product of Kansas City. She graduated from St. Teresa's Academy, the private Roman Catholic girls' school, the oldest school in KC and expensive. Few St. Teresa girls didn't dress Ivy / Preppy when they weren't wearing their school tartan uniforms since the 1950s if not earlier.

She then attended the University of Kansas. Lawrence, Kansas has always had a hippy element since 1968, James Taylor look a likes, but it was always an Ivy / Peppy town especially with the Ralph Lauren Ivy revival starting in 1968.

She then transferred to Arizona state were she met her future husband, he worked in one of the better Ivy / Preppy shops in Arizona.

Salinger and Cheever dressed Ivy league their whole lives as did Robert Kennedy. JFK stopped years before entering politics, Edward never did.

New Yorker articles always remind me of the Saul Steinberg cover, http://shapiro.com.au/lots/saul-steinberg-american-1914-1999-30585/

Jazz and Blues artists from KC, Chicago, New Orleans and Mississippi were nobodies till they were "discovered" in New York.

I will concede that the Ivy League style was conceived by great men's shops at Yale and Princeton and to some degree Brooks Brothers by Jewish tailors taking the British look and Americanizing it. Funny thing is that while the northeast went James Taylor or mod or lumber jack the lower Midwest and Southeast carried on. Of course now all bets are off, now men dress like children or are cutting the lawn or the third world as seen on TV. Casual Fridays have turned into all week.





cassandra lite said...

Interesting juxtaposition of posts. Bill and Hillary said they named Chelsea after "Chelsea Morning."

Howard said...

Handbags are the female equivalent of a phallic symbol.

tcrosse said...

One wonders what the Queen carries in her purse. Perhaps nothing, but she's never without it, so it must have symbolic value. When Helen Mirren accepted the Oscar for The Queen in 2007 she carried a purse with her, possibly in tribute.

Mid-Life Lawyer said...

The mentions of Cheever and Salinger really drew me in and I enjoyed this piece so much. It's just great writing.

Bilwick said...

In my Hell's Kitchen apartment in the 1970s, I, too, had one of those sinkless bathrooms. Actually, since there was no tub and you couldn't bathe in it, it was really a "water closet" rather than a bathroom. The tub (and it was one of those with the claw-foot legs) was in the living room/kitchen, next to the sink; and it was encased in a large coffin-like wooden box which, with the lid down, served as my main table and desk. Except for the roaches and occasional mice, I often miss that scrappy little apartment. I was young and free with high hopes, and living in an exciting, vibrant city filled with other young and hopeful recent college grads, all aspiring to be writers, actors, dancers, etc. The vermin--including vermin of the human kind--seemed a small price to pay to be young and free and living in Manhattan in the Seventies.

Bilwick said...

Loren Laurent, you may be right about the authorship of "Imagine." At least, I remember reading a few years ago (perhaps on Breitbart's Big Hollywood blog) the reminiscences of someone who knew John Lennon circa 1980, and he recalled Lennon being more of a political conservative than one would have expected. The thing I remember most--probably because it was the most shocking--was Lennon voicing respect for Ronald Reagan and absolute loathing for Jimmy Carter. It may be that Lennon was smart enough to realize that the live-and-let-live philosophy of the early Sixties counterculture was ultimately incompatible with statism. As I often say, they started off with flower power and love beads, and ended up with the bayonet and the bludgeon.

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Be said...

First things first - Are you still weirded out about your purse? Also, have you stopped eating yet, due to Bourdain's death and his being involved with food and all.

Be said...

Have you gotten over your being creeped out by your purse?