On the heels of launching her accessories line Frances Valentine, the designer talks to Marie Claire's Nina Garcia about dinner-table traditions, OCD tendencies, and her family's go-to holiday escape.
Nina Garcia: What have you been up to since leaving Kate Spade 10 years ago?
Kate Spade: Spending time at my daughter Bea's school. I signed up for everything: library duty, general store, class rep—which I highly suggest not doing. Bea liked it, but now that she's 11, she's like, "Okay, you can step back a bit."
NG: Why did you name the label Frances Valentine?
KS: My brother, father, grandfather, and his father were named Frances. Valentine is on my mother's side—her dad's middle name was Valentine, because he was born on Valentine's Day.
NG: How are the two brands different?
KS: I'm reflecting on the past 10 years as a different person. I'd never been a mother; I'd never not worked. Starting at 11, I was a movie-theater popcorn girl, a babysitter, a sales clerk—in the Midwest, they start them early! Frances Valentine is where I am now. What I want to wear now.
NG: How has your style evolved?
KS: I was preppy, then suddenly switched around age 14. I asked my mother to go to this vintage store, and she let me buy a leopard swing coat, pink cigarette pants, and lime-green gloves. My mom was like the Diana Vreeland of Kansas City, Missouri. Out of place in big headscarves and pink lipstick, but I loved it. Our number-one bag is named for her—the "June." What's hilarious is she'd probably never wear it.
NG: How do you decide what to call each style?
KS: We name them after family and friends. People get invested. Like my sister Ann will say: "How's the Ann bag selling? I don't want my name on a bad bag!"
NG: Are you on social media?
KS: No. It's not me and I don't care. [My husband] Andy has Instagram—but he takes pictures of, like, weeds growing through cement. I can't imagine anyone would want to know what I was doing all day. My parents weren't photographing people. They were like, "Enjoy your moment."
NG: Whose style do you admire?
KS: Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons. I love her twisted sailor tops. I once wore this red, cut-up cape to Bea's school Christmas party, and she was mortified.
NG: Where do you go to get away?
KS: We rent a house on the beach in San José del Cabo, Mexico, every Christmas. I invite all my family, their kids, their kids' friends. I like a full house because it's how I grew up. I'm one of six children. I'd love to sound educated and say I dive into a good book when I'm there, but in truth, I spend time with the kids playing cards, ping-pong, and board games.
NG: What's your favorite childhood memory?
KS: Eating dinner in front of the TV watching The Wizard of Oz. Now Andy, Bea, and I always have dinner at the dining room table. It's kind of our thing. There are no devices; we just sit and talk. We do "rose and thorns"—I've heard the Obamas do it—where we ask what the best and worst thing about our day was.
NG: What's your guilty pleasure?
KS: Popeyes and Taco Bell. I try to be healthy, but they're just so good.
NG: What about you might surprise people?
KS: People have this impression that I'm a little kooky, but I'm actually very OCD. I love order and organization. I'm a big list maker. But if I cross off too many tasks and it's hard to see the remaining ones, I have to start a new list. Now that's OCD.
1. Shoes $265. 2. Bag $195. Both items, Frances Valentine; francesvalentine.com.
This article appears in the October issue of Marie Claire, on newsstands now.