News of Kate Spade’s death sent shock waves through the fashion industry yesterday, and Who What Wear HQ was no exception. Like nearly every editor in the office, I had a personal relationship with her bags—and it all started with a friends-and-family sale nearly a decade ago.
At the time, you couldn’t have convinced me, a behind-the-scenes word nerd, to wear pink, let alone pay for the pleasure. Yet here I was, salivating over a bright nylon bag that didn’t even have a crossbody strap (how impractical!), gawking at a gasp-worthy $250* retail price (scratched out next to a bright red $55), and thinking to myself, Oh yeah, this is necessary.
To be fair, I did kind of need it. I was traveling a lot for a long-distance relationship and quickly learning that airport style was a thing, so I treated myself. Thus began my journey to find myself—or at least to buy more Kate Spade.
*Prices have been changed because I don’t remember them.
By the time my long-distance relationship had become short-distance, I’d stepped into being this new person, this designer-purse-buying person. It was around this time that my pants were becoming more colorful and my hair was getting shorter. I was in a creative office in San Francisco and trying to figure out what worked for me.
My then fiancée had bought me a luxurious green KSNY wallet the Christmas before that I was never seen without and that the rest of my wardrobe was built around. (It lived most predominantly in my black KSNY bag, of course, featuring a polka-dot interior.) Fortunately, the Bay Area let me be whoever I needed to be and try whatever I needed to try—and I was really trying everything.
On my first trip to New York as an adult, I visited the SoHo store and thought I was the fanciest person alive. I perused the product on display—no sale tags to be seen—and bought a bright red watch. Then I went to Sephora and bought matching bright red lipstick. Then I wore both of those things in my engagement photos. It was a whole thing.
By the time I eventually moved to Manhattan years later, I was a new person. I’d toned down some of my color choices, a happy medium between the preppy look of Kate and the tomboy look of me. I was married, I finally knew that curly hair required different products, and I was confident. I was fully formed. That’s why, when I paid full price for an Elissa bag, it felt like my coming-of-age story had reached its end somehow. The day that package arrived is etched in my brain.
I’m of course still figuring out my life as a working adult, but there are fewer experiments I need to run, fewer questions I have to ask. I can pull out my now dusty Elissa (not actually dusty, of course, because I kept it in the storage bag) and carry it to work as a reminder: It took a lot for me to get here, even if some of it was as simple as having fun with color—or, as Kate Spade would say, living colorfully.
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