In the fashion design industry, Kate epitomized branding excellence. She designed one of her most beloved products-her handbags-to be fun, functional, and fashionably affordable for millions of women. As a woman entrepreneur, Kate catapulted her brand onto a global retail platform which included the sale of her handbags in stores such as Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, and Neiman Marcus. Millions of loyal fans are proudly showing their love of her handbags to honor her legacy. I extend my condolences to her family and friend for their loss.
While many questions are emerging about Kate’s personal life and mental health before her death, my aim here is not to dismiss the seriousness of these questions nor get lost in them. Instead, I want to pay tribute to Kate’s legacy as a woman entrepreneur, share a few ways in which I believe she instilled love into her branding, and offer some questions that we, as women entrepreneurs, can ponder for our own businesses.
For me, the lesson here is, "I must learn my clients’ needs as well as help create an experience that can be associated with my product or service. Along these lines, we may ask ourselves, “What is the vision for the products or services my company?” and “What kind of experience do I want my clients have from my products or services?”
2. Love is always in supply
After leaving a business meeting in Friendship Heights, a commercial and residential neighborhood in Washington, DC, my eyes spotted a Lord & Taylor on Western Avenue. Having heard that many of Kate’s final designs were sold out at many locations, I was curious to see if this was the case at this Lord & Taylor. Fortunately, I discovered one of Kate’s spring collections prominently displayed and well-stocked.
Although her merchandise may very well sell out here, I learned two aspects of Kate’s business savvy. One, she capitalized from her offline platforms (e.g., retail shops) by creating online platforms that drive traffic and sales to meet supply and demand. Two, she created a legacy for her brand by diversifying. Kate successfully extended several of her brand’s signature attributes-namely, classic styling, functionality, and affordability for middle-class budgets- to other products such as shoes, clothing, and jewelry. Here again, Kate demonstrated love by skillfully incorporating her brand into other areas of her customers lives-how they dress (clothing), how they adorn themselves (jewelry), and how they step out into the world (shoes).
I see two the lessons here. One, I see the need to regularly review and build sufficient platforms to operate business both online and offline. For example, does our marketing and advertising materials reflect any changes to our brand and/or the addition of new products and services? Additionally, are we investing in items such as CRM software, social media management, hardware, or other equipment to meet the demands of our businesses?
Two, we should ask ourselves, “How do we communicate or show love to our customers?” Do we take time to assess the needs of our clients by looking at changes in their tastes, preferences, or lifestyles? I believe that even small gestures of love count. For example, do we send thank you notes or offer compliments for customers enjoying our products and services?
3.Love reinvents itself
Since the inception of her handbag business which she and her husband, Andy Spade, launched in 1992, Kate’s business underwent a series of sales and acquisitions. In 1999, the Spades sold 56% of the company to Neiman Marcus. In 2007, she stepped away from her business after selling her company to Liz Claiborne, mentioning in an interview her desire to be a full-time mother and to pursue philanthropic work. In 2017, Coach brought the company for $2.4 billion. As one of her last business ventures, Kate began a new company, Frances Valentine, which she named after her daughter, Frances. The brand, which features shoes and handbags, sells directly to customers online and through retailers such as Nordstrom’s and Bloomingdales. Although some industry experts are uncertain about fate of this new brand, many praise that several of her brand’s signature attributes- fun, fashionable, and affordability- remain intact.
For me, the lesson here is to embrace the growth and evolution of your business and, all the while, keep an eye on what’s important: our value as wives, mothers, friends, and making a difference in others’ lives.
How can we, as women entrepreneurs, build a legacy of love and branding?
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Yvette M. Williams, Ph.D. is a freelance writer for hire. Her company, The Esteemed Scribe,LLC provides expertise in ghostwriting, copy-editing, copy-writing, proofreading, and blogging. Yvette specializes in helping midlife career women 40+ write informative, creative, and inspirational copy that expresses their unique voice and propels their business forward.