Throwback Tuesday — Kate Spade original

Kate Spade handbags were everywhere in our East Coast city in the early 2000s. I loved the balance of sharpness and whimsy in them, those cheery patterns and colors. They (and she) seemed like a lot of fun, although sadly her death in 2018 shows you never really know what someone else’s life is like, no matter how posh and successful it looks from the outside.

Anyway, there was a period of a few years when, whenever I walked through Macy’s, I spritzed myself with her perfume, the only one at that time. It was simply called “Kate Spade,” and it was the fragrance equivalent of a smart, interesting, lively woman –perhaps Kate herself, with her charming, retro hair in a polka dot scarf, bright red or pink lips, and a throaty laugh, full of gusto.

Notes on Fragrantica are honeysuckle, gardenia, lily of the valley, tuberose and jasmine.  Unsurprisingly (and hilariously) the community votes pin it as having very strong sillage, and lasting power between “long” and “eternal.” It stood out from the crowd of beige 90s fragrances in a way I didn’t appreciate at the time. I just knew I loved it.

It was launched in 2003, and by the time I wanted to buy my own bottle, it was discontinued – replaced by Twirl and then a bunch of other, more modern and user-friendly fruit-floral-musk fragrances from the line. Bottles of Kate Spade on eBay now go for several hundred dollars depending on how full they are; it clearly has its die-hard fans.

I popped on there recently on a whim and lo and behold, there was a partial bottle for less than $100; using perfume math, that’s basically free. So, I bought it, hoping it was as great as I remembered.

And it is. It is a big, big fragrance – lots of sillage and longevity. It’s sometimes described as “the perfect wedding fragrance” by fans online (a bouquet of white florals!) but I dunno about that, it’s so huge it might be “memorable” to some of your guests in the way that, say, Fracas is. They might remember thinking you must have spilled the entire bottle on your gown and it was too late to repair the damage.

I wouldn’t say it has “development” as a scent so much as emerging like Godzilla from behind the Empire State Building, fully formed and demanding your attention. It’s greener up top, the way that white florals can be, and over time that fades and it’s more of the indolic notes you might also expect. But mostly it’s a ginormous bouquet of the actual flowers, which is when I realized why I love it so – it smells like the flowers themselves, not wrapped in a bunch of fruity or musky perfumer’s notes trying to fill it out or ground it.

I think it’s a delight, and I can’t think of a single fragrance that smells like it, although (again) its longtime fans are always suggesting alternatives. For me, I’m happy to have it, although I’ve been very careful about when I put it on and where I’m going, given its sillage and lasting power.

Do you remember this one? Have you gone back and found a fragrance from your past?

cover image: Vanity Fair

  • filomena813 says:

    I actually still own that very bottle and it still smells good. I also still use the one Kate Spade black shoulder bag I bought years ago.

  • cinnamon says:

    I’m sure I tried this but have no memory of it. I wanted to like the bags etc but they were never quite me. Her death was incredibly sad. Perfume from past … no, actually. I did look at a couple of things recently and wondered about buying samples but just didn’t. In any case, that bottle is gorgeous.

    • March says:

      I think the brand must have been a bigger thing here in the states, with its vaguely preppy vibe. I still want one of the bags.

  • alityke says:

    I don’t remember this being available on the UK. I vaguely remember the bags but KS’s footprint wasn’t as big in the UK as Viv Westwood & Lulu Guinness quirkiness.
    I do enjoy a BWF bouquet perfume but prefer big ol’ school chypres if I’m going to be smacked around the face by a fragrance

    • March says:

      Hehe big ol’ chypres doing battle with white flowers… I’d take either. Wouldn’t surprise me if KS was mostly a very “American” brand, it has that somewhat preppy vibe.

  • VerbenaLuvvr says:

    Ulta carries this brand so I’ve tried them all over the years. My favorites and current holdings 🙂 are TRULYjoyful and New York Sparkle

    • March says:

      I find the bottles so charming, especially Twirl, and I feel like they’re consistent in their brand messaging. I’ve liked several of them.

  • Dina C. says:

    Somehow I missed the Kate Spade boat, both the perfume and the handbags. The perfume sounds great; I love a true floral without those musk aromachemicals blurring things or worse, tossing the fruit basket in there, too. If I ever run across an old bottle in an antique shop or thrift store I’ll be sure to snap it up. That combination sounds like a greatest hits album — all your favorites squeezed into one scent. Maybe that’s why it’s so Godzilla-like!

    • March says:

      Keep an eye out, I’m sure there are bottles out the floating around. I can’t really find anything about her inspiration at the time (I looked) but I’m guessing this was something she actually wanted and it wasn’t focus-grouped to death.

    • Maya says:

      I decided the same thing. Is it ever a greatest hits album!

  • Maya says:

    I don’t remember having any interest in Kate Spade, but I do now. This perfume sounds like a must try for me.

    • March says:

      If you like your big white florals, I heartily recommend trying this. The closest scent I can think of to compare it to is Fracas, but they don’t really smell alike. The Kate Spade is greener and more multi-floral.

  • Kathleen says:

    I’ve never sampled or worn any of the Kate Spade fragrances; however, I’ve had a pair of sunglasses from her brand in the past. A big fragrance from my past that I still love is Givenchy Ysatis (I love to say the name!). Big, eternal floral. Several years ago I purchased a bottle from the 90s.

    • March says:

      Ooooh, Ysatis! I think I might have a bottle of that banging around here somewhere, I should investigate. I agree it’s a lovely name.

  • Tom says:

    I do remember this one and remember loving it. It IS big. Kind of at odds with the compartmentalized perfection of her bags (which really were brilliant) and the tidy little accessories. But unlike Fracas which always makes me think of a 40’s Femme Fatale with a smoking Lucky and a smoking .45.0, KS was just exuberant. Yeah, kind of like being hit by a crosstown bus made of white flowers, but for me that’s a plus.

  • Portia says:

    Heya March,
    The Kate Spade phenomena passed me by. I know a bunch of people who absolutely adore her work but for some reason I felt a weird antipathy to it all. Strange how we make these snap, unfounded judgements and then hold them close.
    So glad you got your hands on a pretty full bottle and now can luxuriate in it.
    Portia xx

  • Musette says:

    I wore it through TWO bottles -that and the body crème ( both the original and the sparkly one)

    I loved the living snot out of that perfume – it drove Rose( my SFA SA) inSANE! as she tried to interest me in the Next New, to no avail

    I also love ( and have) a couple of her boxy, compartmented handbags with the quirky linings
    Just imagine Godzilla with a hot pink KS bag slung over her tiny little arm!!

    • Dina C. says:

      Hot pink looks great with green. Ms. Godzilla looks DAHRLING in my mental picture!!! 😀

    • March says:

      I am IMPRESSED! Two bottles! It was soooo different than anything else mass-market at the time… not the old-school Estee Lauder, but not amber-musky like so many other popular frags. And you made me laugh with the Godzilla image!

  • MMKinPA says:

    I don’t think I ever sniffed that one. I think I have a rollerball of Twirl somewhere, clearly not super interesting to me as I’m not sure I still have it. Never had a Kate Spade handbag, although I bought a lovely pair of shoes to wear to a wedding in 2011, it was right after my mom passed away and I spent more than I usually would… for a comforting moment of fabulousness.

    • March says:

      I think I had a pair of the sunglasses; never a bag, which is odd, I could have splurged on one. I bet those shoes were wonderful. I’ve tried some (not all) of the newer KS scents and I tend to like the bottle more than what’s in it.