Portrait by Jamie Beck
Kate Valentine—formerly Kate Spade—knows how to build a brand. The designer, whose cult classic handbag launched an accessories empire, is back with a new name to match her latest venture, Frances Valentine. This time, with a focus on shoes—although bags are still in the mix—Valentine reunited with her Kate Spade cofounders, husband Andy Spade and Elyce Arons, and design director Paola Venturi, to deliver a line that’s both sophisticated and playful. Think Kate Spade signature touches like bows, but grown-up. We sat down with Valentine at Walin & Wolff in New Canaan, where the line will be distributed, to talk about her reemergence on the fashion scene in the age of Instagram.
SHOP THE COLLECTION AT WALIN & WOLFF
Valentina M sandal; $450
Why start a new business now?
I had no regrets when I left Kate Spade, and being a mom has been some of the best work I have ever had. But now my daughter’s getting older; she’s 11. I’m not sure she’s thrilled about it, but I don’t think she really cares either way.
Eve wedge; $545
Why shoes? Isn’t that funny?
Everyone primarily knows me for handbags. I ended up liking them the most [at Kate Spade]. I’m detail-oriented to a fault. I remember my husband saying, “If you’re still counting the stitches per inch, we are in big trouble.” It turns out that shoes have smaller stitches per inch. And the work is a lot of fun.
Jane espadrille; $295
How has your aesthetic changed?
I like to think it has evolved as I’ve gotten older. There’s a wider range. I feel like I’ve paid more attention to the details. Not to say I didn’t in the past; all those little things are important—the architecture of the shoe, the stitching.
Whose idea was it to launch?
Elyse and Andy’s. We were all ready for it, but I needed a lot of encouragement. It had to be the right time.
How has the fashion world changed since you ran Kate Spade?
I don’t feel that it has. The only thing that’s really changed is social media. I still don’t do any of it. My husband is doing it because he loves it. He loves Instagram. I said I wanted to get on Snapchat because I like the idea that it disappears immediately.
Do you design for yourself?
Absolutely. I don’t design in themes. I think, Oh my gosh, I want to have that shoe. I want the look to be cohesive, but if it’s too tightly marketed, it appears too tightly merchandised. I don’t really do that, for better or worse.
Why Walin & Wolff?
We were really focused on a small rollout. I knew Tina [Wolff] from Saks so we had a relationship and I knew her store carried the lines within our realm. And this a great market because women here like fashion, although this is realistic fashion.
Bella sandal; $475
Now that you’re back, what are you most looking forward to?
Having my daughter see me work. I don’t know if it matters so much because I do not think that women who don’t work are not as important, but I want her to know that she has a choice.