Kate Spade’s sales have surged since the death of the brand’s founder, and it reveals how important her vision was to its success

  • Sales at Kate Spade “exceeded” expectations during the most recent quarter, parent company Tapestry reported Tuesday.
  • Analysts are crediting the boost to a wave of nostalgic purchases made in the wake of the late designer’s death.
  • Spade had not been part of her namesake handbag label for more than a decade.

The news of Kate Spade’s death in June rocked the fashion world and sent fans into mourning. Some posted tributes on social media and shared memories of how her designs had touched their lives, while others headed to Kate Spade New York stores to buy a handbag in her memory.

Not all would have realized, however, that Spade hadn’t actually been associated with her namesake label for more than a decade, as for many she is – and always will be – the name and face of the brand.

On Tuesday, Kate Spade parent company Tapestry, which also owns Coach, reported strong fourth-quarter earnings, exceeding analysts’ expectations and sending its share price up by as much as 12%.

CEO Victor Luis pointed to the Kate Spade brand in the earnings release, noting that the brand had “exceeded” sales expectations. Analysts are attributing the boost in sales to the wave of nostalgic purchases that happened after Spade’s death.

“The tragic death of Kate Spade sparked interest in the namesake brand and this was helpful to sales, especially in the US,” Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, said in a statement emailed to Business Insider.

It’s evidence that in the eyes of most, Spade, who went by Kate Valentine at the time of her death, never really stopped being associated with the brand.

“When you think of the Kate Spade brand, you automatically have a picture of Kate Spade in your mind,” Lizzy Bowring, catwalks director at the trend-forecasting company WGSN, told Business Insider in June.

After Spade’s death, her former brand was thrust into the spotlight. The company paid tribute to her on social media, sharing this statement: “Kate Spade, the visionary founder of our brand, has passed. Our thoughts are with her family at this incredibly heartbreaking time. We honor all the beauty she brought into the world.”

In a statement to news outlets, the company clarified that neither Spade nor her husband and business partner, Andy Spade, had played a role with the brand in the past 10 years.

“Although Kate has not been affiliated with the brand for more than a decade, she and her husband and creative partner, Andy, were the founders of our beloved brand,” Kate Spade New York said in its statement after Spade’s death.

Saunders argues that the brand’s growth is not short-lived. Tapestry has pulled back on discounting in an effort to rebuild its margins, and while this dampened its sales somewhat in the quarter, he expects that this will help to rebuild the brand’s image in the future.

“Kate Spade is now in a much better position as Tapestry enters its new fiscal year and should start delivering some solid top and bottom line growth,” he wrote.