Kate Spade has taken another step toward its goal of being the next Ralph Lauren by announcing new lines of furniture and home goods. On Tuesday, the company announced it's entering into four new licensing agreements to expand into furniture, bedding, bath, wallpaper, rugs and other household items. "The breadth of our home décor line will feature products at all access points in both pricing and distribution from an $8 notebook to an $8,000 piece of furniture," Kate Spade CEO Craig Leavitt said on a conference call with analysts on Tuesday.
In the fashion business, it seems, everybody wants to be Ralph Lauren. The company epitomizes the so-called aspirational lifestyle brand, able to book huge sales at premium prices for everything from clothing to furniture to dinnerware. Kate Spade, another designer-inspired company, dreamed of following that path. In 2008, it recruited Craig Leavitt, a Ralph Lauren executive, as its CEO. But while shoppers continue to fawn over its colorful totes, satchels and clutches — sales were up more than 40 percent in 2014 — the company is learning that creating a buzzy lifestyle brand is more difficult than it seems.
Gone are the ladies who lunch and the women who lampooned them — Elaine Stritch, Joan Rivers — but the girls who get coffee soldier on. There's already a small infantry forming at Ralph's, a white-tiled cafe on the second floor of Ralph Lauren's new Polo flagship. The communal table in the next room might have been wrested from Le Pain Quotidien, if not Central Perk, where the fictional Rachel Green on "Friends" worked two decades ago before being hired by Ralph Lauren, playing himself on the show in the spirit of good sport that oxygenates his entire enormous enterprise.