Last September, more than a year after joining Kate Spade as Creative Director, Nicola Glass created one of the most buzzed-about events of the season with her runway show at New York Fashion Week. Casting a diverse run of models, actresses and ‘real’ women, Glass’ chic and unique, yet wearable collection was showcased in a secret community garden in NYC’s Soho.
Formerly a Gucci and Michael Kors accessories designer, Glass isn’t just making dresses that look great, she’s using her collection to change the narrative of a brand once labelled kitsch to something more elevated without losing the spirited and eclectic DNA for which KSNY is loved and celebrated.
Over a shared shakshuka and pot of coffee, Grazia Middle East sat down with Nicola on her recent visit to Dubai to talk about the importance of diversity, the environmental footprint of the fashion industry, and how carrying the right handbag can empower a woman.
On diversity in fashion
“I felt really happy about the SS20 show because it pulled all the vision together – this idea of individuality. Kate Spade is a brand that appeals to a broad range of women and ages and this has always been reflected in our marketing and advertising campaigns – there’s always been something to do with diversity. However, it was the first time in a runway show that we were able to really show that. We cast a diverse range of women from different walks of life, from well-known models like Karen Elson and Elizabeth Grace to the amazing Lyn Slater, the 65-year old New York-based influencer, along with plus-sized girls and actors like Debi Mazar and Molly Gordon. We wanted this idea of the guests feeling like they were sitting in a park watching real women walking past.”
On the SS20 show
“There was a botanical feeling to the collection. I had been thinking of this idea of an urban safari, about how you can live in a city like New York but still find hidden oases of greenery. When I first moved to New York, I was living in the East village and I stumbled across these lovely community gardens. The environmental footprint of the show was very small because we didn’t create a big set. We used only plants as props, which were then given away to guests and the passing public once the show was over. And the money we spent on renting the location went directly back into helping the park.”
On going green
“I think sustainability is something, frankly, that every brand needs to be considering. There’s so much more I think we need to do [at Kate Spade], but we’re definitely starting to do more, and all for the right reasons. Before I joined the brand, the linings inside the handbags were made with reused fabric. Now over 40 per cent of the bags have linings made from recycled plastic bottles, and we are looking to transition the dust bags in the same way. When you buy a handbag and it comes with a dust bag it’s great to have that recycled component. There’s lots more things we’re thinking about and implementing, but I’m happy that it’s become such a big trend.”
On broad appeal
“I want KSNY pieces to be timeless. The reality is, none of us is buying a new wardrobe every season, and I don’t imagine a woman coming and buying the entire collection. However, lots of women will find special pieces to take away and style themselves. No two women will wear something exactly the same; they will put their own stamp on it. I feel like the Spring/Summer collection has that appeal to a broad range of women.”
On keeping it upbeat
“Kate Spade is definitely a brand that will put a smile on your face; I won’t be turning away from Kate Spade’s novelty pieces. This season we have this little elephant bag that’s called Tiny, but it’s important for me when we’re designing these particular pieces that there’s a sense of craftsmanship in the way they are made. We have a consumer who loves these pieces and collects them, so I will keep introducing these novelty details.”
On Kate the trailblazer
“I was excited and slightly nervous when I took the job, because it was my first role as Creative Director. But Kate Spade was always a brand that inspired me, even when I was younger. I briefly studied architecture, followed by jewellery design, which transitioned into handbag design, and I started teaching myself how to make handbags in the early ’90s. I read articles on Kate Spade starting her brand from home and I found it a really inspiring story. She was a trailblazer. I didn’t have the access to Kate Spade bags because they weren’t in the UK at the time, but I had read a lot about the brand, so when I was approached for the role at Kate Spade, I was really excited for the opportunity.”
On brand identity
“There’s so much I want to do, but at the same time I don’t want to turn the brand upside down. I want to keep this very strong DNA of colour and optimism. It was one of the first brands that had accessible price points, and if you look back at old advertising campaigns, it’s always had this spirited, eclectic feel. I think it’s a brand that wants to have fun with fashion, that champions being different and individual; all those things really resonated with me.”
On fuelling female empowerement
“When a woman feels confident and at ease in her own skin, fashion can make her feel good. We are creating clothes that she feels comfortable in. We really stand for this idea of optimistic femininity, empowered easy dressing and a silly sensibility. For me, femininity is being confident, seeing strength in being a woman and being able to express yourself. I think even having the right handbag can empower women.”
On work-life balance
“We’re all juggling busy lives. There’s no such thing really as a nine-to-five job – especially if you’re a creative, as I’m constantly thinking about it. I feel like I’m forever trying to find the perfect balance. With my son, I really engage him in what I’m doing, whether it’s coming into the office and watching me sketch or coming along to the shows. He understands why Mummy’s at work and what she’s doing. I feel really lucky because I have an incredible husband. He’s a photographer and a Buddhist and his schedule is not quite as hectic as mine so we help balance and support each other. I try to be present and switch off at times; I try not to look at my work email before I leave home in the mornings. I’m quite mindful, and my husband helps me with that.”
Photos: Jason Lloyd-Evans and supplied