By  on February 8, 2002

NEW YORK -- Designer Kate Spade has a whole new bag.

A beauty bag, that is.

And it's a carefully crafted bag -- the beauty collection is two-plus years in the making. Spade, a former Mademoiselle accessories editor, signed her licensing agreement with The Estee Lauder Cos. Inc. in November 1999. But Spade, who's juggling a white Maltese named Henry during the interview, insists the time frame was deliberate. "We didn't want to rush to market until we had something that was right," she said. "If something is going to have longevity, you have to feel in your heart that it's right, and we took the time to do it -- and we're fortunate to have a fragrance partner who allowed us to do that."

The first 12 stockkeeping units -- a fragrance collection that also includes bath and body items -- will make their highly anticipated debut in May.

Spade, who founded her accessories firm in January 1993 with husband Andy Spade -- when, technically, she was still Kate Brosnahan, "much to my mother's chagrin, I wasn't yet Kate Spade, but I told her Kate Brosnahan was a little long for the label," she laughed -- is no stranger to licensing. She also has licensing deals for shoes, eyewear and most recently, home products. Spade's company is 56 percent owned by Neiman Marcus; Kate and Andy, along with two partners, Elyce Arons and Pamela Bell Simotas, own the remainder.

Although there was industry speculation that Spade's first sku's would be color cosmetics, she says that the plan was always to do fragrance first. "In fact, I'm a bath girl," she said, holding up the powder puff to her dusting powder. "I'm completely into the ritual. That's what I wanted to do first -- and, of course, we needed the scent to do that."

Andy Spade says wryly: "I can shower in minutes, then watch two TV shows while Kate's taking a bath."

Spade's main aim was to create "a simple, feminine, timeless perfume." The finished juice, by Firmenich, is a bouquet of Kate's favorite white flowers. The heart of the fragrance is white honeysuckle: "I still remember smelling it on long car trips with my family," she reminisced. The honeysuckle is enhanced by notes of gardenia, jasmine, tuberose and fresh muguet. The scent also includes notes of tuberose, neroli and orangeflower, with a finish of black currant and violet leaves.

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