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10 Minutes with Kate Spade, the Person

Talking about Frances Valentine, the brand

Kate Spade with Brooke Shields at her New York Fashion Week cocktail party for Frances Valentine. Photo: Frances Valentine

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Nearly a decade after departing the label that put her on the map, Kate Valentine (FKA Spade) returned to New York Fashion Week to show editors and buyers the latest shoes and bags from Frances Valentine, the brand she launched earlier this year — and in whose service she legally changed her name. While not identical, Kate Spade and Frances Valentine certainly carry a family resemblance in their cheeky takes on uptown style. For the latter’s easygoing Fashion Week cocktail party, Valentine filled her Bryant Park studio with heavily jeweled flats, square-toed Mary Janes in rich metallic hues, and sandals with geometric heels.

Racked took a turn around the space with Valentine, who good-naturedly adjusted the shoes on display as she talked.

This is your first New York Fashion Week event for Frances Valentine, and your first since leaving Kate Spade, the brand, in 2007. How did you approach presenting your work this time around?

It was funny, because I was a little nervous. That’s why we purposefully made it very low-key. I’m drawn toward more intimate, uncensored little events; I get a little overwhelmed [by big parties]. People are asking how I feel that it’s different, and I don’t feel that there’s a whole lot different. It’s a little like how we started the last time: small. People thought we were going to come out with a lifestyle brand, because that’s what Kate Spade is. But I want the same luxury that we enjoyed last time, which was slowly entering the market at our own pace, and designing things that we really want to design.

The offerings at Frances Valentine’s New York Fashion Week cocktail party. Photo: Frances Valentine

Has your design process changed since you started Kate Spade?

Well, actually, it’s very similar to the way I started at Kate Spade. Isn’t that funny? I kept the number of styles edited, but I’m more interested in mixing up the fabrics. I’d rather have core styles that allows me more flexibility to pay attention to the heel or toe, to pay attention to the material and the details.

Some buyers are requesting more bags — for Frances Valentine, I came in thinking and feeling very strongly about shoes. But I feel like I’m a little less nervous this time around to not only do it at our own pace, but also kind of the way we want. I think that allows you to do a collection that doesn’t look anything like anyone else’s, which is what we’re hearing a lot. That can be good or bad.

I was going to ask you about the square toed styles, actually, because that’s one look that not many other brands are doing right now.

I mean, I love, love, adore a square toe. One of my favorite shoes, I have to say, is the Katy. I hope it’s a seller. Sometimes what I love turns out to be a curse, or it’ll be a big seller and I’ll be like, “I told you so!” But when it’s not, [buyers] are like, “We told you so.”

Three pairs of pointy-toed shoes with big pom-poms on the toe, in blue, silver, and yellow.
A sampling of the shoes on view at Frances Valentine’s New York Fashion Week cocktail party. Photo: Frances Valentine

The pointy-toed slippers with the big, fluffy pom-poms are fantastic, but I’d be very concerned about ruining them within five minutes. What are your recommendations for wearing them out in the world?

I’m thinking cocktail party. For me, I’m wearing those in the spring — the blue and red, or even the yellow — with white cigarette pants, a black sweater, and a straw bag. Boom. But I have to say, unless you are really, really tall, those would be hard to wear with a skirt, so that’s why we put it up on the kitten heels, too. Then I would wear it with a skirt, because I’m short. I’m not saying go to the beach or walk around the city and go grocery shopping at D’Agostino’s.

I don’t think anyone’s coming to me for banal design. I think they’re looking for something that has an emotional appeal to it. I’m looking for something that has that point of interest — that has a very modern shape to it. I’m loving geometric heels and geometric toes.

A lot of people still associate you very closely with Kate Spade, the brand. How have you been going about reeducating shoppers about having a new project?

It’s a very important thing for us to pay attention to, and it was a very conscious decision to make sure that we distinguished ourselves. When I was at Kate Spade, young designers would ask me, “What should I do?” And I would say, “Make sure whatever you’re doing isn’t already out there.” You don’t want to say, “I hear so-and-so’s stuff is doing really well. I’ll do something like that.” No, no, no. It’s already out there. I wouldn’t do that to my namesake.

I just had an itch to do it again, to create, to design. But I also loved being a consumer [after leaving Kate Spade]. Last time, I felt like I could only wear Kate Spade, but that doesn’t make sense — I appreciate other people’s work. I bought this insane Gucci bag, that really big needlepoint bag that on one side is flowers and on the other side says Gucci. I had to have that. I’ll throw stuff in it and get it all tattered, and my daughter will have it when she’s older. Comme Des Garçons — I bought two of those bags.

What stores did you discover you loved when you dove back into shopping as a consumer?

Dover Street Market. Love. Hands down.

In lieu of asking you what you think the future of fashion week is... how did you spend your summer?

We, on our hiatus, spent July and August in Napa. We’ve been doing that for 13 years, since my daughter was born.