The Spades

spadesThis week in New York Magazine, writer Amy Larocca profiled one of my heroes, Andy Spade and his wife, Kate. It is a fantastic read if you’re at all interested in turning your passion into your career, and being wildly — well, the fourth place kind of wildly (more on that in a bit) — successful along the way.

I first came to know the Spades, as most guys my age did, through my high school girlfriend. That little black tag, “kate spade: new york,” sewn to a simple purse made of ripstop nylon, was stuffed under her arm literally every time we went out. In college, I wanted a forest green Jack Spade messenger bag. In New York, I lived at the Liquor Store and later, Partners & Spade. What this short profile does well is document the attractive, no-nonsense approach the Spades take in virtually every facet of their lives, from designing purses and wine labels, to announcing a shop opening, to doting on their daughter.

It is possible, and in this day and age, in fact, quite necessary for everyone — truly everyone — to approach business from the most personal place possible. The Spades’ successes are a living testament to that fact.

Highlights from the article include:

“‘The bigger you get, the smaller you act.’ By which [Mr. Spade] means: The more personal a brand, the more stuff it can sell.”

“If you look at everything that was going on in fashion at that time,” Andy says now, “there was not a voice that just said hi or hello. There just wasn’t a lot out there that looked real. But there’s something great about suburbia. There’s something great about innocence. A Peter Pan collar is sexier than a bustier.”

On working with his spouse: “I remember this one horrible fight over whether a pink was the right pink,” Andy says. “Ugh. And then it was important for everyone to think we were so happy all the time.”

“It’s possible that all this works because Andy Spade comes by it so naturally: The brand he built is an honest version of himself, of who he is and also of who he aspires to become.”

“Someone once told me that if you ask a woman What is the favorite thing in your closet?, she’ll pull out her newest dress,” says [J. Crew’s creative director] Jenna Lyons. “If you ask a man, he’ll pull out some tattered old thing he’s had forever. That’s the big difference. And that’s what Andy gets.” Essentially, he understands that men are happy to have their shoes resoled again and again, and that they’d like to buy shoes that deserve it.

In regards to letting go of their company, Mr. Spade said, “… the game for us? We just wanted to be in fourth place. We just wanted a good little company.”

“You know,” [Mr. Spade] says, “I was just thinking about this time that Katie defended me. It was so hard working together, it was so exhausting. And then one day we were in this meeting with the Neiman Marcus execs who owned the majority of our company, and someone had a copy of a magazine that had a write-up of Paperboys, which was the first film I produced at Jack Spade. He pushed it across the table and said, “Is this what you’re spending money on?” I couldn’t even talk. I was totally freaked out. And then Katie just totally went to the mat for me. She was like, ‘This is what makes us relevant.’ ” He flushes pink at the memory.

Again, the key to the entire piece is “‘The bigger you get, the smaller you act.’ By which [Mr. Spade] means: The more personal a brand, the more stuff it can sell.”

Special thanks to New York Magazine for this terrific read.