Two days before 9/11, Deborah Lloyd stood atop the World Trade Center, surveying her new town. The U.K. native had just moved to New York for a job with Banana Republic, after leaving a high-profile gig at Burberry. But the attacks on the Twin Towers didn't make her turn back—just the opposite.
"It was incredible, the way people looked after each other," says Lloyd, now the creative director of another all-American brand, Kate Spade. "I thought, I want to be a part of this."
Best known for boosting Burberry's hip factor by putting Kate Moss in a plaid bikini, Lloyd has spent the past two-and-a-half years expanding the Kate Spade brand from bags to apparel and jewelry. Now she's extending her creative efforts into another area: women in war zones. Recently she stepped up the company's work with Women for Women International, a nonprofit that helps women in conflict areas learn a trade and rebuild their lives. The game plan: Lloyd designs patterns for Kate Spade items, then shows women around the world how to make them.
Women in Bosnia are already knitting Kate Spade scarves and mittens, and Lloyd is now eyeing Rwanda, known for colorful beads made of tightly wrapped and varnished newspaper. "The world is mass-produced now, so it's really nice to work with people individually," says the 45-year-old Lloyd, sitting in her Manhattan design studio, surrounded by vintage finds from the flea markets of Paris and London—dotted silk scarves, hot-pink jackets, black-and-white dresses from the '60s. Lloyd has also designed a new bangle to benefit Women for Women; 25 percent of the proceeds will go to the nonprofit in honor of International Women's Day on March 8.
Lloyd credits America for her inspiration. "There's a real spirit in this country about helping people," she says, adding that New York is especially close to her heart. "No one bats an eyelid here," she laughs. "One day I saw a guy in sandals and a loincloth walking along in the snow. No one looked twice. I love that."