Of course there was a Kate Spade bicycle. There had to be. Writing of her American fashion legacy in the New York Times, Vanessa Friedman referenced Kate Spade’s adeptness at weaving “cheer and wicker-bicycle-basket attitude” into every product she made. What began with lively handbags that elbowed stodgy designs aside to become must-have accessories in the 1990s grew swiftly into an accessories and fashion empire.
I posted about the launch of the limited-edition Kate Spade bicycle in spring of 2011. It was a European-style upright in a happy shade of grass green. And in many ways, like the iconic designer herself, whose suicide at age 55 is mourned this week, the concept of that ride was ahead of its time.
Oh, I don’t mean technologically. The Kate Spade bike was an elegant loop-style design of classic form. Like Kate Spade handbags and fashions, it embodied a fun, retro vibe. The forward-looking part was how the bicycle was presented as a part of a lifestyle — a stylish and carefree city existence, at that.
The single-speed, handcrafted in Italy by Abici, came equipped with features that encouraged pedaling in everyday clothing, including dresses and skirts: fenders and a chain case to fend off smudges, step-though design for comfort and ease, and a rear rack for carrying personal cargo. The launch included handbags, too. There was a stylish woven tote that fastened to the rear rack and a smaller leather bag to clip to the handlebars or wear cross-body. All would be as relevant today as they were seven years ago.
In colorful window displays at Kate Spade stores and in marketing, the bicycle was merchandised with stylish clothing and accessories. The sum of it conjured a world of a woman-about-town, zipping to her favorite bakery and flower market, accompanied on her ride by her pooch. It made cycling in the city look accessible and fun and fashionable. I loved it.
Looking back now, the Kate Spade bicycle also anticipated trends that have become commonplace: cross-brand collaboration, online sales and shipping to bike shops for final assembly. For the brand collaboration, Kate Spade teamed with the Tribeca bike shop Adeline Adeline (now closed) to help launch and market the bike. Bicycle collaborations I’ve covered since then have ranged from Missoni x Target to Tokyobike x New Balance.
The Kate Spade bicycle retailed for $1,100 and was sold at Adeline Adeline, as well as through Kate Spade stores and the company’s website. It was among the first I recall to ship to customer-designated bike shops for assembly, a practice now widely used among web-only brands and increasingly by traditional bicycle suppliers.
While the designer and her husband, Andy Spade, had sold the business some years before the bicycle was introduced, it was Kate Spade’s sense of fun that infused it, that created the template. In her tribute, Vogue‘s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour observed of Spade, “Long before we talked about ‘authenticity,’ she defined it.”
Perhaps that’s what caused so many to feel a kinship with the designer, as reflected in the outpouring of personal reminiscences and tributes in print and social media this week by women who cherished their Kate Spade bags. (Two remain in my closet today and I treasure them.)
R.I.P. Kate Spade and thank you for the charm you brought to the world.