I still remember when I first discovered Kate Spade. I was in high school and couldn’t afford one of her handbags, so I bought a knock off instead. (Shhh, don’t tell anyone!) In the years soon after, I became enchanted with her clothing and accessories. The colors! The patterns! The playful quotes! I couldn’t get enough. The Kate Spade brand was the first brand that showed me how it’s possible to be colorful and silly, yet still evoke a sense of quality and design.

I kept her brand in mind when I set out on my path to start Brit + Co. Like Kate, I wanted to build a brand that was all about creativity, color, and fun. I wanted it to feel polished and streamlined, with enough relatability to be quirky and full of puns. Together with my founding partner Anj, we crafted our style guide and website to be all of these things. Our designer even mocked up a Kate Spade image of a girl with balloons as the placeholder spot for a photo of me.

Over the years, I wore tons of Kate Spade New York (and especially Kate Spade Saturday — loved that sub-brand!) in TV appearances, photo shoots, and interviews. It was, in some ways, the perfect essence of what I wanted people to associate with B+C.

You can imagine then, how pumped I was when I was introduced to Andy Spade, her husband, creative visionary, and partner to building the Kate Spade brand for over 20 years. He and I met in New York for lunch one day about a year or two ago. I have met some very cool people in my life — movie stars, politicians, and the world’s biggest CEOs — but meeting Andy was definitely one of my biggest fan girl moments.

He went on to tell me all about the hard times and the good times of building the Kate Spade brand. They apparently used to talk about all kinds of branches they could venture into, from Kate Spade hotels to Kate Spade candy shops. He also gave me some advice about putting my name into a brand name, as Kate did.

He was in the middle of sharing more of their journey when his phone rang on the table. I glanced down and it just read “Kate.” My heart started beating as he picked up the phone and said hello. Guys, Kate Spade’s voice was within earshot of my mouth! I ate my pasta casually and tried not to freak out.

After discussing a few household logistics, he hung up and we finished the lunch about an hour later. I left inspired by all the lines that Andy and Kate had created — Kate Spade New York to Jack Spade to Saturday to Sleepy Jones and lastly to their newest brand, Frances Valentine. What a dynamic duo.

You can imagine then the shock and pain I feel with today’s news of Kate’s death. She has meant so much to me in all kinds of ways over the last decade or two. She has been a creative force of nature that has changed the world for the better. She has given women courage and confidence in more ways than one. And she has been a beacon for pushing the message that living your life colorfully and with reckless abandon can still mean living stylishly and with class.

Kate, thank you for the heart and soul you put into your work and into this world. I will always carry it with me, and now feel it’s an even deeper part of my mission to help push women to #livecolorfully.

(Photo by Brian Ach/WireImage)