At the beginning of each new school year, I buy folders for a dollar, select reasonably-priced pens and pencils and purchase notebooks while they’re on sale.
I hardly pay attention while stuffing these items into my backpack; whether or not they rip or tear is their own business.
Each year, I also allow myself one beautiful purchase, and this year’s was a Kate Spade agenda.
The cover dazzles with flowers of red, green, yellow and pink. Golden rings bind the pages together. Like other Kate Spade products, this agenda offers a striking combination of elegance and practicality.
Short motivational quotes preview each month, bringing me a glimmer of sunshine during midterms, keeping me inspired as the semester marches blindly by.
One day, as I glanced at the agenda cover, I thought about Kate Spade the person, not the designer. Behind the beautiful purses and chic phone wallets was a woman of vibrance and ingenuity.
The Kate Spade company was founded in 1993 by Kate and her eventual husband, Andy Spade. Kate sold the company in 1999 and moved onto other projects including Frances Valentine, an accessories line launched in 2016.
Despite the fact that Kate was no longer technically involved in the Kate Spade company, her tone and creativity stayed with the brand long after she left.
When Spade passed away in June 2018, the flagship Kate Spade store in New York posted a sign in its window expressing condolences to Spade’s family.
The black sign lettered in white ended with the line, “We honor all the beauty she brought into this world.”
I sometimes wonder if she truly knew what she gave to the world. What she still gives.
If she knew that the wise words tucked in between October and November bring me, a 20-year-old college kid, a quiet sense of peace and comfort.
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If she knew that as I page through my planner, designed to match the brand image she so lovingly created, and attempt to determine what reading I should be doing for my American literature class, the catchy phrases make me stop and smile.
August: Respond to compliments with ‘thanks. That’s true.’
Lots of people struggle with confidence, and sometimes it can feel easier to apologize for a small mistake than to accept a compliment. This quote flips that narrative and reminds us to greet life with a confident smile instead of a shy one.
September: Think in years. Plan in months. Live in days.
I couldn’t think of a better month to unveil this quote. If you’ve read my columns before, you know I’ve been quite nostalgic lately. Because of that, I’ve made a point to notice things more. Flowers. Trees. Faces. It makes a difference.
October: Delve into relationships that mess up your lipstick, not your mascara.
All of us have probably found ourselves putting effort into situations that are less than we deserve. This is a nice way of saying that some people aren’t worth your time. I forget that sometimes.
November: If the shoe fits, try the other one on.
Lots of things look great at first glance, but it’s that second look that glints with reality. Ironically, my list of class requirements is written neatly on the page before the November quote. I almost signed up for 18 credits next semester which would have led to yet another stressful semester. Instead of just jumping in, I waited, took a second glance and settled on 15 credits.
December: Shake it off.
What three words better capture the caffeine-filled chaos that is finals season?
I remember going to HomeGoods with my mom the summer before my sophomore year of college. We wandered around looking for dorm decor, and my eyes settled on a storage nesting box.
White, scattered with black polka dots, the sides edged with golden trim and imprinted with the Kate Spade logo. The interior gleamed with a gorgeous pattern of ruby and crimson rosebuds. It was stunning.
I wasn’t quite sure what to fill this 10” by 12” by 7” box with, but I bought it immediately, knowing its purpose would reveal itself later.
That polka-dot box has served as a place to transport my watercolor paintings from dorm to home. It has housed Christmas decorations during sunnier days. It has become my place to tuck odds and ends away to find again later.
And just to clarify, it might sound like I’ve purchased several Kate Spade products, but I haven’t. As lovely as her products are, designer merchandise gets expensive, and I get just as much enjoyment browsing through the store as I do walking out with a receipt.
Her stores are simple, chic and bright. Jewelry glitters under lights, purses in a palette of colors balance on shelves and a nuanced air of sunshine brings the outdoors in.
It makes me very sad to realize that, though myself and so many others appreciate this beautiful brand, Spade herself had struggled so much.
I hope she knew what she gave to the world. What she still gives.