Kate Spade creative visionary Deborah Lloyd strikes a commanding presence at the brand's store in Pacific Place, despite her petite stature. Dressed in a black and white Kate Spade creation, a picture of understated elegance, she's in town for 48 hours and wishes it were longer.
"I like it too much!," she says, and goes on to explain that she sees Asia as a vital market. "We don't like to assume anything but there is plenty of opportunity here … we have huge plans [in Asia], as we do believe there is a Kate Spade girl here." Given the brand's 20th anniversary next year, such ambitions are fortuitous.
When Lloyd's onto something, it's advisable to listen. She famously helped boost Burberry's hip appeal by posing Kate Moss in a plaid bikini in 2000; it became a cult item, a beachwear line followed and prompted US boss Rose Marie Bravo to deliver the famous line: "Getting our bikini on Kate Moss cut the average age of our customers by 30 years in one fell swoop." Timing is everything in fashion, as newly appointed creative director Christopher Bailey discovered to his advantage the following year. Lloyd rose through the ranks in fashion, from Kenzo to Burberry and then Banana Republic, before taking the helm as creative director at Kate Spade in 2008. "When I started, Kate Spade was a handbag company so it has been exciting to develop that head-to-toe look." The design challenge it brings still enthrals her. "I love starting a season."
Lloyd felt strong affinity for Kate Spade from the get-go. "When I first walked into the store I found it inspirational. I love colour and have a sense of humour, so working with a US brand that shared those qualities has been amazing."
And Lloyd still believes in celebrity pulling power. "I love that you never know when Beyoncé is going to wear your bag or Jessica Alba a dress. It's like a seal of approval."
In today’s world, social responsibility is an increasingly vital aspect of a business model. And Kate Spade is among the fashion world’s enthusiastic proponents.
Since 2005, Kate Spade has been working with Women for Women International, a humanitarian non-government organisation working in eight countries, providing financial and emotional support to female survivors of conflict. The group’s programmes help women achieve self-sufficiency through direct aid, rights education, job skills training and small business development.
For International Women’s Day 2009, the brand created a bangle engraved with “hand in hand” on the outside and “there’s strength in numbers” on the inside.
“They started with small programmes with Women for Women, like knitting Kate Spade scarves and mittens in Bosnia, and soon recognised an opportunity to connect the women who work for them with the NGO,” says the label’s creative director Deborah Lloyd.
The brand has worked with women in Bosnia, Kosovo and Rwanda, which Lloyd visited in December, as well as Afghanistan.
“It’s been an amazing adventure to observe and understand the talent and then to take those ideas, using their crafts and turn them into something special for Kate Spade,” Lloyd says. By championing the cause of microenterprises for women, Kate Spade in the past year helped create 400 jobs in Bosnia- Herzegovina, Kosovo and Rwanda.
Its expansion into Afghanistan is the next challenge in a product-development partnership.
As of this year, the company will create 5,000 units of product per annum with Afghan women, with a goal of reaching 15,000 units by 2013.
That’s smart use of girl power.