After my parents divorced, my mom traveled to Chicago frequently to visit her younger sister. Sometimes my sister, brother, and I would go along. One of those times she bought a Kate Spade bag. It was black and white, the standard handbag.
Without ever seeing any advertising, without having any awareness of the “whimsical” nature of the brand or the founder, I knew that my mom buying this purse was a big deal. That was advertisement enough. She would return back to our rural Ohio town with a “Kate Spade.” We went up the Signature Room of the John Hancock building and drank hot chocolates. I was probably twelve at the time and I remember feeling sophisticated. I knew I wanted to grow up to be the type of woman who owned a Kate Spade.
Coach was the chosen-purse while I was in high school. I owned one, but I never particularly cared for the gaudy C’s all over everything. I feel the same way about Louis Vuitton and Michael Kors purses. You do not have to be discerning to notice the brand, it screams at you like a portable billboard. A Kate Spade is very clearly a Kate Spade, but you wear the purse. The purse does not wear you.
I own my own black Kate Spade handbag, given to me by mother for Christmas a couple years ago. At that point Kate Spade the person no longer had anything to do with Kate Spade the brand, but the purse is black, simple, functional. It is all business on the outside with pink polka dots on the inside. I still use it. I am the type of woman who owns a Kate Spade purse.
I think when I was twelve I thought this type of person would be living in a big city, sipping something more potent than hot chocolates, glamorous, sophisticated, cosmopolitan. Today I am none of those things. I live in another (slightly larger!) rural Michigan town. I’m more bookish than glamorous. The only sophisticated and cosmopolitan thing about me is that I can read (but not speak) French. And I use it not to read French Vogue, but to read Rousseau.
But I think, going back to that day when Kate Spade first caught my eye, is that the purse made me look forward to adulthood. As an awkward nerdy middle-school kid in a small rural town, I think that day with the purse represented what everyone who does not necessarily fit in where they are at: there is more out there. What that “more” looks like does not look like what I thought it would when I was twelve, but I think I found it, or at the very least, am closer to it.
Thank you, Kate Spade.