Andrew Spade is a fashion designer who co-founded Kate Spade and Jack Spade. Born in Birmingham, Michigan, he attended Arizona State University, where he met fellow future-fashion designer Katherine Brosnahan. Together, they launched the handbag design company Kate Spade in 1993. The couple married the next year. They created the design company Jack Spade in 1996 to fill the perceived market void for stylish and practical men's accessories, and the company officially launched in 1999. In February of 2009, Andy openend a new store on Great Jones Street, in Manhattan, called Partners & Spade. He resides in New York City.
Question: What excites you about men's fashion today?
AndrewSpade: I think that men’s fashion isn’t exciting today. I don’t find newness in men’s fashion necessarily. I still believe for men that, you know, style is about, you know, putting on what you like to wear. I find that most men’s fashion is ridiculous. And it’s . . . it’s inappropriate, and it’s not what, you know . . . what men who I try to sell to can consider style. So I think in terms of the business, maybe what’s going on technologically with fabrics is interesting. I think what’s going on with, like, Nike and some of the outdoor companies is exciting. I think that to me is exciting. It’s the evolution, and the innovation, and the fabrications of things. But in terms of the fashion world, I don’t see that as fashion. To me performance and function are key. And the byproduct of that is fashion. I mean Patagonia is one of the most interesting companies, you know, going right now. And I wouldn’t call them fashion, although I think that people sometimes do.
Question: Who are today’s best designers?
Andrew Spade: Well I think that, you know, that the designers . . . And this is somewhat off subject, but I think Apple has figured out that technology is fashion. And I think the designer at Apple whose name I can’t recall right now, which you probably know, is doing a fantastic job with design. I think that that’s become fashion. I think that the designer who’s French, Agnes B, has done exciting things with fashion really supporting young filmmakers and typing fashion and film together. I think that Paul Smith has always done something interesting with fashion because he’s always looking to do new things with tradition without basically making the traditional seem absurd, unless it’s purposeful, which he has a great sense of humor about being an Englishman. And I think that, you know, APC, which is a French-based company – does some neat things. You can look around the world Ray Kocubo of Comme des Garcons is always innovating and doing fantastic things with their guerilla stores where they’re opening stores that have clothes, not changing the store whatsoever, and just opening and putting their . . . their clothing in there and running as if it were a former bookstore. There are a lot of companies like that. And then Colette’s in Paris, Corso Como in Italy . . . there are some other smaller stores. But generally Stone Island is doing a great job. C.P. Company. And then traditionalists, you know, who are on the Rhone in England and all around are making beautiful, beautiful things. So I’m sure there are more, but that’s about it.
Question: What is the biggest challenge men's fashion faces?
Andrew Spade: I think the biggest challenge with men’s fashion right now is how do you make something that will stand the test of time, and at the same time is intelligent? I mean there are basics that exist that exist as basics for a reason. If I think about the clothing that I like and that I wear, they are usually . . . No one thinks about this today, but you think about items like the Oxford cross shirt that I’m wearing by Brooks Brothers. I mean it was made this way because it had to be heavier. You had to move around in it. You know, if you notice the buttons on the ones that were made pre-80s, pre-90s, there ___________. But there’s a reason for the clothing’s being. The cross shirt came from a tennis player who wanted a long back so his shirt would stay in. You know, he wanted the sleeves a certain length. He wanted the open collar. He wanted _______. These classics today, most of those classics come from – whether they’re ________ working pants, or whether they’re Levi 501s that were made for miners – that’s why the rivets are there – they were designed for a purpose. And the purpose became fashion. The product became fashion; but those items, if you make something, make it for a reason. Know why it’s there. When Kate made her bag it was because it didn’t exist. We wanted a lightweight bag that was stylish, that wasn’t cheap, that was good looking. When I made Jack, I wanted something that wasn’t a sports bag, because I didn’t want to carry a Nike bag around or a Patagonia bag because I wasn’t a mountain climber. I didn’t want to be a composer when I went to work. But I also wasn’t going to wear Prada, or Louis Vuitton or any of those bags because I’m not that person. I wanted something that was utilitarian that had a bit of style to it, but wasn’t “fashion” in the way that a lot of fashion companies are. And it was first sold in a hardware store. I put the first bags in a hardware store so that contractors and people in the industry would use them, and wear-test them. And I’d get feedback on them and make sure they could carry them. I looked at the ________ tool bag. I looked at the Globe messenger bag which is no longer _________. Globe made the best messenger bag back when I was in New York. And I went and studied the factories and how they made it, and made this purposeful tote bag and messenger bag. And that was it. And it came from somewhere that I thought filled a void from the style, practical, and utilitarian standpoint. And I was inspired by the cost of 501, by New Balance, by Nike, by all of those . . . by NASA. I mean all these places and what they do. So I think that’s where we’ll always go. And there’ll be temporary changes where someone will do it just for decoration, which is fine. But I think men should look always like a man in a way that I think I’m addressing. It’s not new, and it’s not, you know, exciting. But it’s definitely, I think, there for a long time. And I think that it’s . . . it holds up. I want people to look back in 50 years and say, “Gosh. Kate Spade is still here.” It’s because it wasn’t a fad. It wasn’t there because of colors or purple this season. It was there because there was a need for this product.
Recorded on: July 12 2007