Fashion and home designer Kate Spade headlines a benefit April 16 for Ave Maria Preparatory School (call 952-9394 for ticket info) to show support for her sister, Sarasotan Reta Saffo, and 14-year-old nephew Laith, a student at Ave Maria. A brand-new mom who oversees a company selling her signature handbags, shoes, china, crystal and table linens in 15 nations, Spade took a few moments just days before the birth of her and husband Andy’s first child to talk about education, creative inspiration and how her career evolved.
Q. Did you know in high school that you’d be a designer?
A. I actually had no idea. I went to college at Arizona State to earn a degree in journalism. Then I moved to New York and worked at Mademoiselle magazine as an editor. I became a designer because I knew what I liked and wasn’t able to find in the marketplace. It was my husband who encouraged me to try a career at designing handbags. We formed the company when I was 30.
Q. Were you a good student?
A. I was. I always liked school, particularly more creative subjects, such as English.
Q. How important is an arts curriculum in schools?
A. Very. From what I understand, it helps open children’s minds up to new ideas and different ways of thinking. It’s especially important to capture students’ attention and encourage them to use their imaginations.
Q. Do you remember the first bag you designed?
A. I remember it well, and I still have it in our design archives. It was a structured, open-top raffia tote with fringe. We still make that shape today because it’s fun and functional.
Q. Where does your design inspiration come from?
A. Many designers take inspiration from a place or time period, but for me, inspiration is everywhere and nowhere in particular. I might see a window shutter on a house in the Hamptons with a gorgeous color, or a pretty awning at a restaurant that catches my eye. Little things inspire me. I design more for moods or a feeling that I get about fabric or a shape.
Q. Who do you design for?
A. The great thing about being a designer is creating things that I want to wear or carry. Beyond that, I hope that my things appeal to a woman with a keen sense of personal style, someone who will see a shoe or a bag and have to have it, not because it’s a trend but because it fits with how she thinks about herself.
Q. What makes your collection of china, crystal and tabletop objects different from what’s already out there?
A. I like the idea of bringing personality and color to a clean and elegant table setting. There’s a modern element to our collection, but it’s also timeless.
Q. What’s next for the Kate Spade company?
A. We introduced our home collection last year and we’ll continue to develop that. Our new bath collection hits the stores this spring.
Q. Any hobbies?
A. I love to travel-Napa Valley, Sonoma, and I adore Mexico. I listen to all different kinds of music. And for the past few years, I’ve had a great time decorating my own home, going to flea markets and antique shops.