Archive for Sunday, October 6, 2002

Designer adds flair to accessories

October 6, 2002

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— Handbag designer Kate Spade rarely sees a movie more than once. But she did go twice to "The Royal Tenenbaums," the 2001 cult hit about an estranged family of child prodigies. Like many stylemakers, Spade couldn't get enough of the exhaustively detailed set decoration of the family townhouse the stuffed javelina boar's head, the rotary phones and the game closet.

She studied the costumes, too. "I loved Bill Murray's corduroy suit and Gwyneth Paltrow's fur coat. The whole sensibility of the film wasn't casual, but it was easy," said the former Mademoiselle editor, who in less than a decade parlayed a similar aesthetic into a $70 million-a-year accessories empire.

Her Tenenbaums fascination didn't end at the movie theater. A zebra tote in Spade's new spring line was inspired by the red running-zebra pattern wallpaper in the room of Margot Tenenbaum, played by Paltrow. Spade hired the film's costume designer, Karen Patch, to create a quirky, old-money look for the Lawrences, a fictional family of five featured in Spade's fall ad campaign.

It's easy to see why Wes Anderson's "Tenenbaums" resonated with Kate Spade. At her airy 25th Street showroom, boxy bags and preppy, round-toed shoes sit on shelves next to classic titles such as "The Journal of John Cheever" and "Poems of e.e. cummings." The dusty old tomes, collected from flea markets, used-books shops and the Internet, give a sense of history and place to Spade's fun, feminine accessories.

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