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Both were born in the Midwest, Kate in Kansas City, Missouri, and Andy in Birmingham, Michigan.
The two met in college—Arizona State University—when Kate Brosnahan, the fifth of her family’s six children, took a part-time job at a Phoenix haberdashery, John’s & Co.
Andy was already working there part-time (his younger brother, comedian David Spade, of fame, worked there, too: “I got ‘let go,’” David says, “’cause I wasn’t ‘producing’”).
Working with the precision of an artist or architect (the handbags have been shown at the Cooper-Hewitt museum and recognized with design awards), she combined elements of American style—modesty, clarity, suitability, strength—into something straight out of Strunk and White, a book Andy admires.
The bag debuted at Barneys and Charivari in 1993, but what people wouldn’t quite see until the mid-1990s, when the hand-to-hand combat between designer handbags heated up, was just how American this handbag was.
Prada’s bags in black military fabric carried a postmodern whiff of the abyss. Dior’s bag had a logo that dangled like a demented charm bracelet.
While Kate was climbing the fashion ladder at Andy was winning awards, making his reputation with witty, impish, almost impertinent ad campaigns: Charivari’s “Wake us when it’s over” (a salvo against Gap-era conformity), Fruitopia’s psychedelic kaleidoscopes, and that wonderful series of Yellow Pages puns (Motivational Speakers, Riveting Machines).“Andy always had a highly creative reputation, a highly refined sense of humor,” says Richard Kirshenbaum, the cochairman of Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, who hired Andy as a copywriter in the late 1980s. Something that had a twist.”This is not surprising, given a childhood in which imagination trumped convention. It just seemed that this wasn’t what I was going to do.”The couple had always talked about starting a business. And then we realized Andy was doing far better financially at the advertising agency than I was at the magazine, so it didn’t make sense for him to quit his job.
“As my mom tells it,” Andy says, sharing a bit of Spade-family lore, “I had a Handy Andy tool set and I was carving her coffee table in half. “It was really about having some control,” Andy recalls. We had to have something I could get going before he quit.