Kate Spade Has Entered a New Era — While Still Staying True to Its Roots


BFA/Rommel Demano & Courtesy Kate Spade

Spring has always had a reputation of being colorful and cute, full of flowers, sunshine, and an overall feeling of joy. But when Kate Spade’s newest head product designers, Tom Mora and Jennifer Lyu, thought about the season as a whole, they decided to have a more realistic approach.

“We thought about it a lot and knew that in the beginning of spring, there's rain,” Mora, the new SVP and Head of Design, RTW, told InStyle, as the two walked us through their debut collection. “We were like, ‘You know what? Let's enjoy all of spring.’ So we came up with this little idea of, ‘What does that look like? What does a joyous Kate Spade day in the rain feel like? Or getting caught in the rain?’”

According to the duo, it’s practical, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring.

Kate Spade's Spring 2023 Collection

Courtesy Kate Spade

“We're a brand that really is leaning into our codes, and color, polka dots, stripes, beautiful prints — that's who we are and we love it,” explains Mora. Much of Spring 2023 includes rain slickers with coordinating hats and large carryall bags, but there’s still that famously fun Kate Spade twist. “Even the rain boots,” he says, pointing out how footwear can be a great way to express yourself. “We have a ton of classic rain boots, but let's do something that feels really unique to Kate Spade. So, we took the rain boot to make this little pointed toe kitten heel with a tread sole on it.”

Kate Spade’s spring jewelry and bags also include a subtle hint to the rain theme, such as pearl drop earrings that represent clouds and a fringed, sheep-dog shaped bag wearing rainboots.

“I've seen five or six iterations of this dog bag floating around,” says Lyu, who oversees the brand's leather goods and accessories, explaining how much effort goes into one single design. “[The team is] like, ‘It came out with bangs!’ So, we did bonded leather, that way when you're walking, you see the fringe moving and it's like a sheep dog. We had to do a lot of haircuts, so we're calling it a show dog.”

Another bag — a silver cloud, with rain-like fringe — is another creative, thoughtfully executed idea that’s bound to be a hit.

“It’s part of our novelty offering and we just anodized aluminum for the lightweightness,” Lyu tells us. “It's like a piece of jewelry as you're wearing it — we have diamante encrusted all over the folds of the cloud bag and micro chains. Sometimes, when we think about the different designs that we can have for our novelty pieces, they’re not the easiest things to make, you can imagine.”

Kate Spade's Spring 2023 Collection Acknowledges the Intense Weather

Courtesy Kate Spade

Beyond the rain, Mora says the goal was to have the Kate Spade customer “dripping in color” and to mix and match different shades.

“What two colors together make an interesting idea?” he asks. “Is it a bright pink and a soft pink? Is it navy with chartreuse or an acid-y green? Pink and red? We're always looking for that special color.” He says that for one floral print adding chartreuse to more classic color scheme helped to spice things up. “It's pretty, but what's going to make it really dynamic? We added this color in and it just changed the whole thing. So that kind of little tweaking.”

Both Mora and Lyu say they were big fans of Kate Spade the brand long before joining the team, and have thoroughly enjoyed diving into the archives for inspiration.

“There’s so much joyous and rich history and heritage to this brand. It’s just so amazing to be able to go back into the archives, but also set something for the modern woman,” says Lyu. “We’re constantly asking ourselves, ‘How do we serve a Kate Spade customer?’ Because she's very dynamic. When you think about her, she's a go-getter and has a multifaceted lifestyle. And especially in handbags — that functionality and making it stylish. That’s how we make it relevant for her today.”

For Spring 2023, Kate Spade is also relaunching one of Lyu’s personal favorites, the Sam Bag, which is possibly the brand’s most iconic design. Although the classic structured shape will remain the same, Lyu says it received few modern updates, such as longer straps and replacing the usual nylon with sustainable, recycled materials.

“When you wear it, it's a bit of a nostalgic, retro shape. I think it's very youthful in spirit,” she says. Mora agrees. “That's the incredible thing about the brand — a bag that launched the company, the Sam Bag, is still so incredibly relevant,” he tells us. “That's the beauty of it. And that's something we always think about: where we've come from and where we are now, and just really honoring that heritage.”

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