Why you can’t always call a Spade a Spade

Names are very personal, everyone has one.  Either the name our parents gave us when we were born, the one a woman takes sometimes when she gets married, or the one you legally change it to for other reasons.  Either way everyone has a name they go by.  But sometimes, your name is not your name.

As we know, corporations also have names.  It’s not too uncommon for corporations to use the same name as the person who founded it.

  • The Walt Disney Company
  • Tony Roma’s
  • Charles Schwab
  • Eddie Bauer
  • Estée Lauder
  • Hugo Boss
  • John Deere
  • Johnnie Walker
  • Neiman Marcus
  • Liz Claiborne
  • Kate Spade

Let me tell you the story about Kate Spade, Liz Claiborne and Neiman Marcus.

The person Kate Spade’s real name today is “Katherine Noel Frances Valentine Brosnahan Spade”.  When she was born in 1962 her parents named her” Katherine Noel Brosnahan”

After graduating from Arizona State in 1985 she moved in with Andy Spade (brother of actor and comic David Spade).

In January 1993, Kate Brosnahan and Andy Spade launched the New York–based design company “kate spade handbags”. The next year Kate and Andy were married but she never legally changed her name to take on her husband’s last name.

Kate Spade Handbags, as the name implies, initially sold handbags, but eventually extended to clothing, jewelry, shoes, stationery, eyewear, baby items, fragrances, tabletop, bedding and gifts.

In 1996, the Kate Spade brand opened its first boutique, a 400-square-foot shop located in Manhattan’s trendy SoHo district, and moved its headquarters into a 10,000-square-foot space in West 25th Street.

In 1999, Neiman Marcus purchased 56% of the Kate Spade, the company.  In October 2006, the company purchased all minority interest for approximately $59.4 million.

Neiman Marcus, the company, was founded in 1907 by Herbert Marcus, his sister Carrie Marcus Neiman and her husband Al Neiman.  Today, Neiman Marcus Group is owned by two private equity firms, Texas Pacific Group and Warburg Pincus.

Neiman Marcus then sold the Kate Spade label for $124 million in 2006 to Liz Claiborne Inc., which was later renamed to Fifth & Pacific.

Liz Claiborne, the person, launched her own design company, Liz Claiborne Inc., in 1976. It was an immediate success, with sales of $2 million in 1976 and $23 million in 1978. Liz Claiborne Inc. went public in 1981 and made the Fortune 500 list in 1986 with retail sales of $1.2 billion.

In February 2014, Fifth & Pacific, now owned by Liz Claiborne Inc. changed its name back to Kate Spade & Company.

In 2016, Kate Spade, the person, wanted to go back into business a collection of luxury footwear and handbags.  She sold the rights to her name, Kate Spade back in 1999 so she called the new company Frances Valentine named after two of her family members and she legally changed her name from Katherine Noel Brosnahan to Katherine Noel Frances Valentine Brosnahan Spade.

She recently went into a Kate Spade store in New York to buy a gift for her daughter Frances Beatrix Spade.  When the sales clerk asked if she wanted to be on their mailing list she just smiled. Her daughter said, “mom tell her”.  Kate politely told the clerk that she was sure she was already on it.


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