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Simplicity: The ace of Spade


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POSTED: Thursday, June 18, 2009

Shoppers stepping into Hawaii's newest Kate Spade store, at Ala Moana Center, might assume the company's gone native.

Kate Spade's Hula Ida, made of tiers of raffia strips in natural, magenta and orange hues, offers a fun, swingy and cheerful 7th Avenue interpretation of island style.

But the colorful display of humor combined with classic style and clean, modern shapes is an extension of the company's everyday philosophy of creating clothing, accessories, paper and home products that are simple, elegant and timeless.

The store opens with a sunny, resort-style collection exuding laid-back chic that seems well-suited for a Hawaii summer. It's a perfect start for those eager to shed their sloppy, summer selves, but who didn't know where to begin.

To celebrate the opening, the boutique is offering a limited-edition Hawaii Paradise Found tote that will be sold exclusively at the Ala Moana location, at $155, while supplies last.

The first Kate Spade collection started in 1993 with no-nonsense, nylon tote bags in six styles and three neutral colors. The designer, who worked in the accessories department of Mademoiselle, noted a void in the accessories market, for affordable and fashionable, not trendy, bags, and started the company with her husband Andy.

Her work paid off in 1996, when the Council of Fashion Designers of America named her America's New Fashion Talent in Accessories. In 1998, she was named the CFDA's Best Accessory Designer of the Year.

Since then, the company has changed hands, but its style direction, under creative director Deborah Lloyd, remains intact. Designs appear to embrace the Jackie Kennedy mystique. Dresses compliment a woman's curves with slim bodices, nipped in waists with a gentle flare at the hips. It's a look that exudes femininity and the confidence of knowing one's place in the world. It is possible, after all, to look like a woman without being a pushover.

The looks could fit easily into 1950s privileged society, while managing to look fresh and contemporary. The secret to pulling this off is to mix classic with casual pieces to avoid looking too starchy and formal.

Hallmarks of the Kate Spade look are clean, uncluttered lines. There's little that can be construed as extraneous in the garments. Details, instead, are added in playful accessories—such as bold, graphic bangles and necklaces bearing insect, frog, butterfly, fruit and floral charms—that catch the eye and lure in admirers. It's that easy to cast a spell.