Nicola Glass, On What Feminist Dressing Means To Her
ELLE Singapore|October 2019
Where does a brand as optimistic as kate spade fit in the world we live in? We speak to its creative director, Nicola Glass, on what feminist dressing means to her
Gregory Woo

Everything is political. In a world where one, and I’m speaking hyperbolically, could sneeze and cause an uproar on social media, the question I hazard to ask is what exactly is fashion’s place in such charged times. You don’t have to read the headlines to know that the world is in flux, you can feel it in the air… and see it in the Instagram comments. Fashion, accordingly, continues to react to that, and it’s no coincidence that the styles of the early ’60s and ’70s have bubbled back up to our collective consciousness. Many pieces of clothing women have no qualms with wearing today – bell-bottom trousers, penny loafers and mini skirts – were championed by their foremothers who redefined female dressing during the second-wave feminism of that time. Heck, if you’ve ever heard the phrase “free the nipple”, just remember they were the first women in modern times to… well, liberate the areola and going braless was a sign of freedom from male oppression.

Fast forward some 50 years and that same message can get a little muffled. Here’s the thing, one can glob a statement onto practically anything one wears, and while much like the early ’70s hit I Am Woman, one doesn’t always have to scream it from the rooftops. Or in this case, from the front of a T-shirt. When it comes to dressing, designers the world over who have their pulse on the times are banding together – serenading the woman of today with the same tune, one with an upbeat tempo that the wearer can vibe to her own step.

Which is why a brand like Kate Spade is of supreme importance today. The late founder was first an accessories editor at Mademoiselle Magazine, leaving her post and making her mark, first with a functional, chic, reasonably-priced black nylon purse named Sam and later, expanding to shoes that gave a child-like whimsy back to women, before leaving the brand she built with her husband in 2007 to raise her daughter. That same year, president and chief creative officer Deborah Lloyd took over. She introduced a jubilant take on recessionary dressing with her floral frocks and preppy, punchy seperates and expanded the brand from an accessories line into ready-to-wear and jewellery, helping shape what a fully realised Kate Spade woman could look like. Today, Nicola Glass, who became the brand’s creative director in 2017 is carrying that legacy forward in her own way.

She has taken the quirk and fun the brand is known for and refreshed it with a distinctively modern point of view, abstracting the iconic markers of the brand like the graphic spade and print affinity then distilling it through the lens of our times, introducing a subtlely and pared-back approach to the brand that lets the woman enter a room first, before her dress does and simply adds an exclamation point to the statement she chooses to make. For FW’19 she mined a particularly poignant era in feminist culture’s – the late ’60s and early ’70s – sweet spot.

Tell us about the starting point of this collection and the ’70s please. What does the era of second-wave feminism and soft sensuality mean to you on a personal level? Is it a commentary of the times we live in and how does it resonate with the Kate Spade woman?

For Fall, I started by imagining raiding an insanely glamorous woman’s closet, and the rich, eclectic mix you’d find that you could make your own. I was inspired by the thought of where clothes end up rather than where they originated. I envisioned women who are looking for clothes that are spirited, feminine and fundamentally effortless. There’s a soft glamour to this collection... an easiness.

I’m really drawn to the tailoring and fluidity of the 70s era. For Fall 2019, the inspiration was pulled from a 70s-meets-40s mix – fluid silhouettes and fabrics with dramatic lengths in dresses and pants, and a sophisticated take on colour-blocking.

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