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Kate Spade's unwavering impact at ASU

The ASU alumna's designs have encouraged women to live colorfully

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"Cronkite alumna Kate Spade has positively impacted the fashion industry, empowering women to be their most stylish selves." Illustration published on Tuesday, June 19, 2018.

ASU Cronkite alumna Kate Spade’s brand is known for being a girl’s first high-end handbag. Spade’s designs are chic, tasteful and more affordable than most luxury handbags, perfect for any girl transitioning into womanhood. 

Her designs can be seen throughout the world – in airports, cafes, shopping malls and even in the closets of friends and family. Her brand has help women bring a pop of color and confidence in their life, as they carry their belongings in a stylish way. 

What some may not know is that Spade is an ASU alumna, graduating from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication with a degree in journalism in 1985. Spade pursued a career in fashion journalism after college.

In 1986, just a year after Spade graduated from ASU, she began working in the accessories department at Mademoiselle magazine in Manhattan.

John Craft, a Cronkite professor, said that he had Spade, although he knew her as Katie Brosnahan at the time, in at least two classes – one being broadcast management and the other being cable television and emerging telecommunication technologies.

“What I mostly remember about her was that she was just a very quiet, incredibly nice, serious student who did very well in class,” Craft said. 

Craft recalled on a time Spade came into one of his production classes with a man who would later become her husband, Andy Spade, and his brother David Spade, who were working on a small play in the studio. 

“I do think that you can look at how a student performs in class and say ‘this person is going to go out and do very good things’,” Craft said, “(it) may not be in the area that you are actually teaching, but you can see a lot of the different personality attributes that allow them to become leaders in their particular area.”

Craft said he saw this quality in Spade. 

Gabrielle Hester, an incoming junior journalism major, is the new president of the Fashion Journalism Club at ASU and has been in FJC since she was a freshman. 

Hester has a dream of one day becoming a magazine editor, moving to New York and writing for a fashion publication like Vogue.

Hester said that she has always been a fan of Spade’s designs and was excited to learn that internationally recognized designer Kate Spade once sat in the same lecture halls as her. 

“Almost every Christmas I've asked for a Kate Spade purse,” Hester said. “Still haven't gotten it, but I’m obsessed."

Hester said that sharing Spade’s story of graduating from Cronkite and becoming a world-wide known fashion designer would help inspire a lot of people, especially Cronkite students, who feel like the dream has a stigma around it as being unrealistic. 

“There's so much you can do with (a) journalism (degree) and it's such a multifaceted platform,” Hester said. “I think it's really cool to see someone become so successful after graduating from Cronkite and actually making a difference in the world and being a known household name coming from ASU, especially her being in fashion.”

Dennita Sewell, professor of practice in the ASU School of Art and head of ASU’s fashion program, released a statement after Spade’s passing.

“Kate Spade made a significant impact on the fashion industry with her eponymous accessories line,” Sewell wrote. “Her education at Arizona State University in journalism was a key foundation that garnered her a position as senior editor of accessories at Mademoiselle magazine in New York.”

Sewell wrote that Spade’s love of clean, simple and modern handbag designs filled a niche in a market that was flooded with trendy, complicated bags. 

Sewell wrote that Spade started with limited resources, building her company and using her enterprising ingenuity to start what would eventually become a highly successful internationally recognized brand. 

“Her success stands as an inspiration for all students to follow their intuition and their dreams,” Sewell wrote. 

Reach the reporter at or follow @jessiemy94 on Twitter. 

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