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A Continuous Lean: Andy Spade at the Bar Interview

The latest interview in an ongoing series of interviews by David Coggins for A Continuous Lean features Andy Spade who along with his partner started the Kate Spade (and later Jack Spade) line of bags. The interview involves a few different topics including the diversity of his current work and the basis for creating Jack Spade. The interview in its entirety can be read here.

DC: Partners & Spade does a lot of different projects—it’s everything under one roof.

AS: There are two parts to it: there’s the storefront part which we wanted because we loved the idea of being on street level and being in touch with the city. We wanted to have a space that allowed us to put together all the things we love: advertising, art, design, films, writing, objects. And the back of the space is the studio—all we need is two turntables and a microphone. We can work the Bowery Hotel if we need more room. We’re open by appointment or if you knock really loudly. And I like putting together shows and giving people a chance to show their work.

DC: Because you thought there was a void in the market—you couldn’t get a bag that you liked?

AS: At the time 1995 or 1996, I liked Patagonia and some outerwear companies. But when I went to the office I didn’t want to carry an alpine bag, and I wasn’t attracted to designer bags. So I wanted to create something in between, with menswear fabrics. I grew up in Arizona, as a kid I hiked up mountains, and was a boy scout, and went to the Grand Canyon and camped out at night. So I knew all the sleeping bag companies.

DC: So much classic design came from the military because it had to have a functional element to it.

AS: That’s true. We’re trying to think about how you live and what you need. One bag I’m proud of is the dipped bag in rubber which is just what they put on their gloves. We thought why not apply the same science—or same stupidity—to a bag?

DC: Were you surprised how Jack Spade was received—not just a utilitarian sense, but as a brand?

AS: I didn’t know if it would work or not. I was putting out something that I wanted to have. We were fortunate that Kate was doing well. Not everything worked, but we had enough time and patience to tinker and get it right. Usually you’re designing for yourself or people you know. We didn’t want to make a $1500 bag, leave that to Italians who have that mastered and have 100 years of craftsmanship behind them. It took longer than I thought to get accepted—but ultimately it started to speed up.

DC: Did you feel that you did everything you wanted to at Jack Spade—is that why you moved away?

AS: It wasn’t about leaving Jack, it was about going to a new place creatively. I felt conceptually we had done what we wanted to do. It wasn’t about making it bigger, it was about making it better. I think what happens when you get big and you have a public company involved the obvious question is ‘How can you expand this? How many categories can we add? Can we have 100 stores?’ I could do it but I would be repeating myself and end up miserable. Sometimes you have to know when to stop. I didn’t think I could invent as much inside as I could outside.

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