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Looking back on the designs and styles of Kate Spade and the brand — and signature bag — she created

Looking back on the designs and styles of Kate Spade and the brand — and signature bag — she created
Kate Spade launched her handbag line in 1993. Here she is shown in 2002 in a New York showroom. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Her mission was to bring the perfect handbag to the masses. And Kate Brosnahan and her business partner and the man she married, Andy Spade, did just that after starting the Kate Spade label in 1993. Initially, there were six handbag silhouettes, and the bags featured the brand’s name on the outside. They weren’t fussy in nature but were designed to be utilitarian, sleek and colorful — and, of course, affordable, especially to urban women who wanted to carry a designer bag but couldn’t spend thousands for one.

Designer Kate Spade, 55, died Tuesday in New York from an apparent suicide. Out of all her early designs, one handbag, in particular, is often credited with catapulting the line to “It status.” That $200 bag, the Sam, was a black, boxy and simple bag initially made from waterproof nylon, and carrying one became a rite of passage for many elite, young career women. (To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Kate Spade New York released updated versions of the Sam bag this year.)

Spade left her self-named brand in 2007 after Neiman Marcus Group, which owned a controlling stake in the label, sold it the year prior to Liz Claiborne Inc. In 2017, the brand was bought for $2.4 billion by Coach Inc., which is now called Tapestry Inc., also the parent company of Coach and Stuart Weitzman. Kate Spade New York, however, has continued to build on its founder’s legacy for designer handbags in the $200-$500 range.

KATE SPADE
Kate Spade perceived a need for handbags jazzed up with fun fabrics and offbeat colors. Sales have proved she was right. Jim Cooper / Associated Press

The evolution of the label’s bags has moved into a more playful and daring space. The current collection includes designs that feature pineapples, flamingos and bright beachy colors that complement the motto, “Live colorfully.”

Here’s a look at some of the designs from the Kate Spade label over the years.


fakes
The success of Kate Spade handbags triggered a flurry of fakes. Here's a photo of a fake Kate Spade bag, left, and a real Kate Spade handbag. Kevin Hively / Los Angeles Times

Kate Spade shoes and bag from spring 2005.
Kate Spade shoes and bag from spring 2005. Julia Ewan / The Washington Post

Kate Spade merchandise in a New York store in 2016.
Kate Spade merchandise in a New York store in 2016. Michael Nagle

Blue patent bag
A patent leather from Kate Spade shown in a 2006 photo. Spade said patent leather can give the pop to an otherwise subdued outfit. Kate Spade / Asssociated Press

Kate Spade purse, $548.
A Kate Spade snake-embossed leather, black-and-white striped Benson Angelika carry-all bag with adjustable cross-body strap, $548. Kate Spade New York

HANDOUT PHOTO: Kate Spade's limited–edition canvas tote bags celebrate the accessory maker's new sto
Kate Spade's limited-edition canvas tote bags celebrated the accessory maker's new store openings. Here's the Tinseltown bag, $155. Kate Spade

Kate Spade Make Magic Rabbit Shoulder Bag and Muff, $398 at katespade.com
Kate Spade's Make Magic Rabbit Shoulder Bag and Muff, $398. Kate Spade New York

Spring 2013 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week
Purse detail at the Kate Spade New York spring 2013 presentation on Sept. 7, 2012, in New York. Dario Cantatore / Getty Images

Minnie Bow Clasp, $328.00 - Kate Spade New York brings Minnie's style to life with unique glitter bo
Kate Spade New York brings Minnie's style to life with unique glitter bow accents, sequin applique detailing and comic book prints with products ranging in price from $40 to $328. Kate Spade New York

Kate Spade New York vachetta leather Spring Forward flowerpot cross-body bag, $328 at katespade.com
Kate Spade New York's vachetta leather Spring Forward flowerpot cross-body bag, $328. Kate Spade New York

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tara.paniogue@latimes.com

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