Kate Spade announced Friday that she'd exit her own brand, which is now owned by Liz Claiborne. The question is, will it survive without her? It's true that Liz Claiborne is a millionaire franchise, with Juicy Couture and C&C California under its umbrella. But those brands aren't built on a person's lifestyle, and Kate Spade is more like Martha Stewart than Monica Botkier - her bags aren't just cute, they're a nylon embodiment of a cool way to live. We know when magazines are named for women, they tend to fold when their founder leaves - witness Mirabella and Jane. But what about clothing labels? Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, and Cristobal Balenciaga are gone from their brands, yet their legacy keeps going. But those houses were founded before websites, product placement, and publicists. Kate Spade's label was decidedly modern, and it wasn't really built on beautiful handbags - it was built, instead, on living beautifully. Sending whip-smart thank you notes. Smiling through your sunglasses. Looking incredible just off a plane. That's Kate Spade. It took Halston years to revive after the man himself faded; Perry Ellis is gone; Anne Klein and Bill Blass are just now getting back. Does Kate Spade need Kate to keep going, or did you forget forever ago that she was even real?
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