It was my junior year of college, and my mom and sister were visiting me for the weekend. When they came into my dorm room, my monogrammed, black-and-white chevron laundry hamper greeted them – along with the accompanying sky-high pile of dirty clothes.
"Girl! You can't just have your unmentionables out for the world to see. Put those away," my mother chastised and commanded.
My then-10-year-old sister decided to contribute her two cents on the matter. "Ahh-haa!" she sang teasingly. "Sissy has unmentionables!"
We all cackled at her nursery-rhyme kiddie tone while I tossed the laundry hamper under the lofted bed to be hidden by the slate-gray bed skirt.
Later that year, we sat in the living room opening up Christmas presents. I was handed a Disney-princess-wrapped gift from my little sister. She chuckled; I side-eyed. Ripping open the paper, I saw the back of a bag of some sort, my attention caught by the bright pink hue, smooth nylon texture and small gold-plated words: "Kate Spade New York."
I turned it over, unsure of its wide shape, yet excited that it was by my favorite designer. On the front, in bold, all-caps black letters, was inscribed "Unmentionables." Head-thrown-back howls ensued, then I happily thanked my sister for gifting me my first Kate Spade (albeit lingerie) bag.
Before this laughable familial moment, my affection for the Kate Spade brand had begun at the end of high school. Based on the few black faces in the fashion industry, I felt that sometimes fashion designers didn't want people who had my skin tone to wear their products, so I proceeded with caution.
I didn't want to love a brand that didn't like people who looked like me, but when I saw African-American models on the Kate Spade site, with natural hair and glowing, melanin-infused skin – something I hadn't seen from other designer labels – I permitted myself to engage this love.
Through the years, my affinity for and connection to the brand have swelled, as I acquired everything from Kate Spade stationery and housewares, to a surprise styling appointment for my 24th birthday at the flagship store on Madison Avenue in New York from my boyfriend.
For many women, like me, the devotion to this brand started with being drawn to vibrant colors and cheerful phrases, but it went beyond that.
In a fashion industry devoted to creating edgy, shocking, wow-factor ensembles, Kate Spade remained unabashedly committed to the bright, the happy, the joy. Getting your first anything by the brand was like carrying around a gentle reminder from the designer herself to "live colorfully."
So Tuesday, when news broke that Spade had been found dead in her Manhattan apartment from apparent suicide, all who have been influenced and affected by her style and designs felt it.
Many women, including celebrities like Mindy Kaling and Chelsea Clinton, took to social media to share everything from stories about their first Kate Spade bag, to a cry for mental health awareness, to their affinity for the designer and the brand, to their gratitude for all the beauty, joy and color she brought to the world.
Thank you, Kate Spade, for encouraging me to be lively and twinkly, to "eat cake for breakfast" and, most of all, for letting me know that I, too, am a girl who is "quick and curious and playful and strong."