Style

Kate Spade Founder Returns to Fashion with Frances Valentine

Kansas City native Kate Valentine steps back into the world of fashion (in seriously cute shoes).

What’s in a name? Quite a bit if you’re Kate Valentine, the designer who started Kate Spade with her husband Andy Spade.

The couple left the company in 2006 to spend more time with their young daughter, but these days Kate is back in the spotlight and going by Kate Valentine as she launches a new company. Dubbed Frances Valentine, a combination of her father and mother’s family monikers, the name was chosen to represent their legacies—as well as the next chapter for the company’s founders, including Elyce Arons and Paola Venturi, who reunited after working together at Kate Spade.

Frances Valentine founders Kate Valentine, Paola Venturi, Elyce Arons and Andy Spade. Photo by Thomas Iannaccone.

Although the team is familiar, Frances Valentine is a wholly new project. Case in point: The focus is on shoes and not handbags, the item that made the Kate Spade brand a household name.

“It was what I wanted to do and I kind of thought, if we’re going to do it again and be really different, you just want to do it the way you want to do it,” Valentine says. “That’s the only way it’s really going to work, if it’s really natural and honest.”

The debut spring collection does feature an array of bags, but it’s the shoes—ranging from party-perfect to everyday essentials, with many featuring playful embellishments—that steal the show and captured Valentine’s imagination.

“I think it was the detail,” Valentine says of why she gravitated toward footwear. “You also have a lot of leeway with shoes. You have little parts you can add with the heel, the toe—really just the architecture of the shoe, I think is so beautiful.”

Sculptural components are abundant, from the sleek, sexy Valentina to the Bella, deceptively modest until you catch a glimpse of the geodesic dome heel. (The style is a favorite of Valentine’s.)

“Even if it’s just a really simple shoe, it has to still have that feeling of “Oh my gosh, I have to have it,’” she explains.

Valentine found that “have to have it” quality was missing from items she came across as a consumer during her decade away from the fashion world, which helped inspire her return.

“I thought, ‘I’m not really interested in that. Maybe there’s room for what I feel like doing now,’” she says. “I’m a little older, and I feel like I’m more confident in being a little pared down. That’s in terms of designs, but also in how large the collection itself is.”

This time around, she is also more comfortable trusting her instincts, which might explain why the comeback was easier than she imagined.

“You learn a lot from having done it before, hopefully what to do and what not to do,” Valentine says.

Working to launch the collection didn’t keep the designer from making a few recent trips to Kansas City, where her father and sister still live. Her next visit—and your chance to purchase Frances Valentine pieces—comes next week at Halls when she stops by 5-8 p.m. March 9 for a patrons’ party and shopping benefit (get tickets here) and an in-store appearance noon-2 p.m. March 10.

Ten percent of all purchases during the party and the day of her appearance go toward the Brain Injury Association of Kansas and Greater Kansas City when shoppers mention they’re supporting BIAKS.