By Ruthie Friedlander
Updated Sep 08, 2018 @ 5:00 am
Nicola Glass Headshot
Credit: Cass Bird

This New York Fashion Week marks a lot of firsts for the Kate Spade brand. It's the first Kate Spade collection to show after the eponymous designer passed away on June 5 — though Spade herself left the company in 2006, her influence is still a significant part of the brand's aesthetic. It's also the first time we'll see the brand's latest influence: Creative Director, Nicola Glass.

Glass, who previously worked at Michael Kors, was tasked with modernizing Kate Spade. There are new takes on the beloved Sam bag in pebbled leather, exposed labels in bright pinks (think late '90s Kate Spade) and dresses that epitomize the concept of "day to night." And of course, there's a "Nicola" bag (all under $400) which comes with high fashion hardware and a twist-lock in the shape of a heart, a tribute to the distinctive changes the creative director has begun to make.

Nicola Bicolor Shoulder Bag in Roasted Fig and Rococo Pink
Credit: Kate Spade
Dorie Medium Bucket Back in Chartreuse
Credit: Kate Spade

We sat down with Glass ahead of the Kate Spade NYFW show to discuss the brand's new direction.

So to start, why did you decide, after so many seasons of a presentation format, to do a runway show?

It’s actually not going to be a traditional runway show, but I just really want to just see movement. It was really important with the clothes. And it just felt a little static. I think Kate Spade is a brand that's very joyful and it's quite hard for the models standing in a presentation on a podium to look joyful for two hours.

What would you say is the biggest difference between this collection and what we have seen from the brand the past few seasons?

It’s more modern and less retro. I definitely did look back to the very beginning for inspiration, at what Kate and Andy did. There was a purity to their design approach and their use of color and that really appealed to me. And so, with the ready to wear there's more of this polished ease. There's more expansion and different silhouettes. I want the customer to feel they're going on this journey of discovery with the products. And that's particularly true with the novelty [items] where I think maybe sometimes in the past things could = be a little bit too obvious. I wanted this feeling that there are details for the customer discover when they're close-up. Like seeing in a resin heel there's a little jewel embedded.

When you were designing, did you have a certain type of woman in mind?

It's something we talk about a lot. Who is our customer? It’s more that she's [in a certain] mindset, she's young at heart. The brand has always been very joyful and optimistic and I definitely didn't want to lose that. I think that it's something that resonates with people.

Will the Kate Spade pricing stay the same, even with the new designs?

I really like the price point where we are. When Kate passed, that stood out to me while reading all the amazing tributes to her. Looking back at what a trailblazer she was to introduce handbags at that price point. I like the fact that we are where we're priced. We can reach a broader group of consumers and we're able to offer a range to that customers, whether it's a teenager buying a case for her first iPhone or someone registering when they're getting married or an older woman treating [herself] to a new bag.

Geospade Square Scarf in Forrest Floor
Credit: Kate Spade

How were you able to elevate the brand without raising your prices?

We’ve been careful not to raise prices and we've managed to do that in different ways. Putting that detail and design and attention into, say, a hardware piece it doesn't cost anymore than more simple hardware piece. I think you can add value by looking at the details and how things are constructed. Being part of Tapestry [Kate Spade’s parent company] is also a huge help. Their buying power as far as leathers enable us to give more quality back to consumer.

What has been the biggest challenge has been since you started?

Finding the right balance between looking back at what was great and thinking of a way to really do them differently. Wanting to make sure that you're bringing the customer along with you. That you're not alienating anyone, but at the same time, you're taking her somewhere else and hopefully attracting a new customer. Finding this opportunity to appeal to a broader range.

Does the history of the house feel at all like a burden?

I honestly think it's a gift. Coming in, it's good to have some building blocks to start with. So for me, it was about looking back to the beginning of what Kate and Andy did. Even being inspired by some of their old ad campaigns and the confidence of the women in them.

Did you make any different design decisions after Kate’s death?

At that point I'd already actually mainly designed this collection. And I didn't change course, really, because I felt that I had already been so inspired by her. That had been one of the starting points.