Kate's gotta brand new bag

You can only imagine how many young women fainted at the sight of the new Kate Spade boutique that opened on M Street. The 1,200 square-foot space houses the famous collection of nylon, leather and suede bags that have become a staple in almost every woman's daily life.

This seventh official Kate Spade retail store can be found in the trendy Georgetown shopping area. It boasts handbags, of course, and also shoes, glasses, beauty products and accessories, such as wallets and coin purses. For men, the store includes Jack Spade items from the men's accessory collection designed by Spade's partner and husband, Andy Spade.

The store, which opened in June, features three modern and stylish sections: a mock version of Kate Spade's closet, a grid display system inspired by artist Piet Mondrian and a shoe salon.

"We're definitely filling the void in the area for high-end bags and shoes," said Anne Holland, manager of Kate Spade in Georgetown. "A lot of retail stores carry the brand but we carry a lot of the products that retailers don't receive and exclusive boutique items."

Holland, whose marketing background instilled in her the importance of customer service, was approached by the Kate Spade company to manage the new store. She says that with its location and the brand's commitment to quality and distinctiveness, the store has been very busy and well received by Georgetown residents, tourists and the like who come in to scour the shelves for the designer's latest creations.

"For bags we have young adults and young professionals coming in and for shoes we seem to attract a more sophisticated woman who's looking for style, but not necessarily [something] trendy."

That same phrase, "sophisticated woman who's looking for style but not necessarily [something] trendy," can be used to describe the designer herself. Before Katherine Noel Brosnahan, now Kate Spade, made bags, she critiqued them as senior fashion editor and head of accessories for Mademoiselle Magazine.

In 1993 Spade, along with husband and partner Andy Spade successfully began filling the void that Kate noticed while at Mademoiselle: The need for a stylish yet practical handbag that could be carried without looking dated. Taking it a step further, she designed six simple bags (which are still the company's signature styles) and gave them a satin finish. These nylon bags were not only classic in shape, but also ranged in colors and fabrics with eye-popping prints.

Both consumers and the fashion world have welcomed Spade for her vision. Spade won awards from the Council of Fashion Designers of American in 1996, for America's new fashion talent in accessories in 1998 and for best accessory designer of the year.

As one might predict, sensible yet stylish accessories do not come cheap. Though the prices are nowhere as outrageous as those of Louis Vuitton, Gucci or Prada, the shoes are priced around $200 and bags can range from $180 to $500 depending on size and material.

Yet most who know Georgetown know that before there was even a Kate Spade store you could purchase one of the look-alike bags at a price far less than that of an authentic one. However Holland is not too concerned about the knock-off bag stands.

"It's definitely a threat but it's not going to close the business down," Holland responded. "They are breaking the law, as well as people who are buying the bags. The quality of our bags is much higher and [Kate Spade] is working with artists to make the bags more original. We're steering away from the look being sold on the street and turning much more to distinct designs and looks that can't be reproduced."

This new look will include the Thompson Street suede bag, which Holland indicated as the must-have bag from Spade's fall collection. The supple suede bag comes in a variety of colors including eggplant, red, a creamy white and chocolate brown. It also comes in an impressive assortment of sizes and styles, which explains the $250 to $495 price range.

"The company itself is constantly moving in a lot of different directions," Holland explains. "[Spade is] definitely taking what was built ten years ago and moving forward. The company's been successful and it'll continue to grow."

The store plans to host various events for new products and is working on having its official opening party sometime this fall. Just make sure you show up with your Thompson suede bag in tow just to show them you mean business.

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