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GLENN: What were the first things you thought of as being fashion?
KATE: It was a pink velvet dress that I saw in a shop window, which came with a matching purse. I was crazy about it and insisted that my mother buy it for me. When I grew out of the dress and my mother gave it to my little sister, I had a fit. I remember grabbing the little purse and saying, "I can still wear this. You don't have to fit into this!"
GLENN: Do you still like that matching look?
KATE: I'm trying to get away from that. Buyers will sometimes ask me, "Why don't you do a shoe just like the bag?" But I think each should stand on its own.
GLENN: When did you realize that you were a fashion designer?
KATE: I don't know if I have. [laughs]
GLENN: Well, what are you then?
KATE: I don't want to be cheeky, but I don't look at it in those terms. I just keep coming up with ideas.
GLENN: How did it start out? Did you just think, "I wish I had a bag like this?"
KATE: It was really because I didn't want to stay at my job anymore I was working as a fashion editor at Mademoiselle. Andy, ever the optimist, said, "You always find great vintage bags. You could design bags." We started with six basic handbag shapes. The company has grown as we've become more comfortable with experimentation.
GLENN: I think for a lot of women a bag is sort of a totemic item. It's more tied up with a woman's identity than other accessories. What's in your bag?
KATE: It's not organized, trust me. There are a lot of loose dollar bills floating around. But the contents of a woman's bag are really personal. Women get nervous if other people look through their bags.
GLENN: Do you ever carry a bag that's not yours?
KATE: No. That would be silly, because if I'm not making bags that I want to carry, then I should get out of the business. Sometimes I do look at other people's designs and think, "Oh, I wish I had thought of that."
GLENN: I've heard that you're a workaholic. Is that true?
KATE: I'm not a workaholic, but I'm very, very involved.
GLENN: Do you have problems delegating, Kate? [both laugh]
KATE: Definitely. But I think I'm getting much better. Andy used to tell me if I didn't let people make mistakes then they would never learn. Sometimes instead of trying to explain what I wanted, I would just do it myself. But when it comes to managing the company, that's where we do very well. Andy is amazing at planning, visualizing, and pushing things forward. I love the execution of ideas, physically making designs come to life. But you need both.
GLENN: You and Andy have this famous team relationship, but is the division of labor really what someone would imagine? Is Andy secretly designing women's pumps late at night?
KATE: I think most people assume that I design while he runs the business and advertising end. But Andy is very involved in design, much more than people realize. Andy runs the creative department. If I want an opinion, I'll ask Andy first.
GLENN: My wife is always telling me how to do my business, and I guess I do the same thing with her. That's one of the reasons you marry somebody you trust your wife's or your husband's taste and judgment.
KATE: I love working with Andy because he knows me better than anyone else does.
GLENN: You said that you started with an idea about designing bags and that has led to other things.
KATE: Yes. After bags, we decided to do a range of stationary and paper things, even though it would have been predictable to try shoes or belts. We never expanded into the categories that people assumed we would we just did what felt right for us at the time.
GLENN: What about Jack Spade where did that come from?
KATE: Well, everyone kept saying that I should do a men's line. And while I understand how Andy dresses, I wouldn't have known the first thing about designing for men. It is always a terrible idea to go into something just because other people think you should.
GLENN: So it's Andy's thing?
KATE: He understands menswear and knows exactly what he wants. It just made sense for him to do it. And he loves it.
GLENN: He got it exactly right. I usually carry my ratty first generation Jack Spade bag.
KATE: It looks very chic, especially with your Birkenstocks.
GLENN: This may be a dumb question, but who is Jack Spade?
KATE: My mom's brother's name is Jack. Then there's Jack Welch from General Electric, and Jack Kerouac. Andy just liked the name. Is your son's name Jack?
GLENN: No, it's Oscar. We picked it because we didn't know anybody we didn't like with that name.
KATE: Kids names are so hard. You don't want to get too tricky.
GLENN: What's your dog's name?
KATE: Henry. Now if ever I have a son, I can't name him Henry. That would be too weird.
GLENN: Henry is great. You're from the Midwest, right?
KATE: Yeah, Kansas City, Missouri.
GLENN: When did you move to New York?
KATE: 1986. I traveled around Europe by myself for a while right after I graduated from school in Arizona. When I got back, a friend of mine was living here, so I moved here as well. I had always imagined living in a big city where people were up all night. My family thought that I would be shocked by the scale of New York the streets, the buildings, but it was just as I had imagined. It was more shocking going back to Kansas City and realizing how flat everything is there. My mother told me, "Well it's the same height that it's always been!" [laughs]
GLENN: Charlie Parker came from Kansas City.
KATE: It's a big jazz center. It's an island of hipness in the Great Plains.
GLENN: I know you grew up Catholic. What were the names of the nuns at your Catholic school?
KATE: Sister Mary Catherine, Sister Mary Pat.
GLENN: Yeah, I had a Mary Pat. The nuns at my school were in the Sisters of Cruelty I mean charity, the Sisters of Charity. What do you think about Catholic guilt?
KATE: My sister's Jewish husband used to say, "I don't know what's worse, Jewish guilt or Catholic guilt."
GLENN: My mother wanted to be Jewish, so we were Catholic Jewish wannabes. I'm awfully guilty.
KATE: [laughs] Yeah, well, who isn't?
GLENN: Do you think we missed anything? Is Andy a WASP?
GLENN: Do the WASP work ethic and the Irish work ethic ever conflict? WASPs are management, and the Irish are labor.
KATE: That seems to be how it worked out. [laughs]
GLENN: Is Andy a slave driver, Kate? You can tell us.
KATE: No, he's one of those people who are always thinking. I think we both have a really strong work ethic, but our brains work in different ways.
GLENN: Do you have trouble vacationing?
KATE: No. Oddly, I have no problem vacationing.
GLENN: How do you do it? How can you escape when you're so hands-on?
KATE: Somehow when I am off, I can just switch off. Andy and I usually go to this place with no telephones, so we can't be reached. You might get a little message left on your door at the end of the day, but that's it. Neither Andy nor I have voice mail, so we don't have to worry about checking it. But I can relax more easily on vacation than Andy. He wants to get out and run and swim, whereas I just want to curl up with a book, relax, and have a margarita.
GLENN: I'll drink to that.