Nicola Glass Is Taking Kate Spade Beyond Retro-Chic

by Ashley Baker

Creative director Nicola Glass is ushering in a new golden age at Kate Spade. On the eve of her second showing at NYFW, she discusses the brand’s beautiful evolution.

This week, you will show your second collection for Kate Spade at NYFW. How was your initial collection, which you revealed in September, received by buyers and consumers? What were some of your most popular styles?
The response to my first collection has been very positive and encouraging. The public is truly embracing my vision for the brand! My first collection started hitting stores on January 28, and I’m thrilled with the response so far. One of the most popular handbag styles is the Nicola twistlock handbag, which is the first bag I designed for the brand. It comes with a distinctive enamel spade heart twistlock hardware. We designed a range of iterations to appeal to a range of personal styles. The bubble dot high-neck dress has also been extremely popular. Both Priyanka Chopra and Olivia Wilde were seen wearing the dress during the Fall shows, and it turns out customers are loving it, too.

How have you built upon that success in your Fall ’19 collection?
We are focusing on the new house codes we introduced for Spring and Summer as we move into fall — always keeping the brand’s core DNA in mind, while staying true to our brand promise of optimistic femininity. We continue to elevate our assortment and evolve core concepts with new takes on sophisticated design techniques.

How are you evolving the brand’s prints?
I’m continuing to develop a unique print language. Print and color are the defining signatures of an amazing collection. When you walk into a store, you should be able to spot a brand from across the floor by its print and color sensibility. I’ve been focusing on graphic prints where there’s a sense of discovery — what you see from far away isn’t the same as when you’re up close.

How are you using the iconic spade in accessories?
One of the most important focus areas for me when I started was to establish iconic elements across categories that are consistent season to season, starting with the spade. So many brands look for a symbol to define themselves, and Kate Spade has one of the strongest. I explored all types of spade treatments — both overt and bold and subtle and hidden, integrating it into patterns as well as functional closures. I wanted to use our heritage as a distinct and recognizable part of our product design across categories, including handbags, ready-to-wear, footwear, jewelry, even home. The spade has endless possibilities.

(Kate Spade)

What kinds of color combinations are you gravitating toward?
For the Spring collection, I’ve taken a more refined and eclectic approach to color, and combined them in unexpected ways, like lilac punctuated with chartreuse. I’ve also mixed high and low hues, like dark green and pale pink.

What are your key silhouettes for the Spring collection?
Overall, the collection is more modern and less retro. It has a youthful spirit and a ’40s-meets-’70s silhouette. There is a sense of polished ease. The pieces are fashion-relevant, and many of the ready-to-wear pieces can easily transition from day to night, depending on how you accessorize them.

How do you expect these to transition into Fall?
We continue to build on the fluid silhouettes and unique use of fabrics introduced in the Spring and Summer seasons, translating these elements for Fall. Ready-to-wear is evolving through the use of new textures, prints, colors, and elevated takes on embellishment. Easy, sensual details are polished and put together.

What have been some of your favorite moments on the job so far?
My favorite moment as a designer was my first fashion show back in September at the New York Public Library. I loved seeing how my vision came to life and translated across all our categories, from ready-to-wear and jewelry to handbags and footwear. Now that my collection is in stores, it’s exciting to see the response from customers. They’re really embracing my vision for the brand.

(Kate Spade)

What are some of the best compliments you’ve received about the new Kate Spade?
A few of my favorite comments include a press headline from the day my first collection hit stores that read, “The New Kate Spade Collection Is Here, and It Might Be the Brand’s Best One Yet.” A customer on Instagram commented, “I was skeptical, not wanting to accept change, however, I can say I stayed tuned and waited patiently and objectively and I’m obsessed. #truetokatespade #spadesfordays.” It’s been a rewarding experience!

Have you been on any inspiring trips lately that could potentially influence an upcoming collection? If so, please share!
You’ll have to wait and see! I love to travel with my husband and my son. We like to visit exotic destinations where we can not only experience the culture, but also do some of our favorite activities, like surfing.

Which Kate Spade bag are you carrying these days, and what is inside it?
I actually carry two! I strongly believe in the idea of “two bags, one look,” which is how we styled the collection for our Spring and Fall shows. It feels very real to us because it’s how most women carry their bags, and provides an additional opportunity to style the new pieces in a personal way. I carry the Nicola bag and the Dorie together. The Nicola bag is the first handbag I designed for the brand. It’s a softly structured shoulder bag with rounded corners, and its soft feminine details balance the strong, graphic silhouette. In my Nicola, I carry my essentials: my cell phone, wallet, Chanel Stylo Yeux waterproof eyeliner, and a picture of my son, Flynn. Dorie is a larger bag that features a traditional interlocking leather technique, reimagined as interlocking spades. In my Dorie, I often carry paperwork that I need to review, dark chocolate with sea salt for when I need something sweet, and snacks and small toys for my son.

(Kate Spade)

How do you plan to show the Fall collection?
We’ll be continuing with the runway show format, and this season will be showing at Cipriani on Broadway. It was really important to me to do a show to properly reflect the shift to a modern silhouette. With a runway show, you infuse movement into the experience, which allows the guests to see the change in silhouette—to see the fluidity in the ready-to-wear.

We’ve seen a lot of Kate Spade on the red carpet. Tell us about some of the women wearing Kate Spade for these events, and why they are gravitating toward the brand. Any favorite looks would be great, too!
The celebrity response has been really exciting and new for me. There is an ease to the product that women love. I love seeing how they style the pieces in their own way. I love how Priyanka Chopra styled the bubble dot high-neck dress at our show last September. It looked easy and effortless, but chic. Angela Sarafyan looked gorgeous in the lilac satin midi dress and matching Rochelle boots at a dinner we hosted with InStyle in Los Angeles. These boots have been extremely popular this season!

Nicola Glass and Leandra Medine

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