Rachel Brosnahan’s new fashion project is a meaningful one.
The award-winning star of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is the new face of the spring campaign for Frances Valentine, the label Kate Spade founded in 2016. Not only is the actress, 28, one of the brand’s most loyal supporters, she’s also the niece of the late designer, who tragically died by suicide at the age of 55 in June 2018.
“In the wake of Katy’s passing, my family and I were so overwhelmed and encouraged by the love and support we received from those who were touched by Katy’s work, many of whom were strangers from around the world,” she tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week’s issue. “When you lose someone you love, you search for boundless ways to keep their memory alive. This felt like a way to do that through her beautiful creations and an opportunity to share them with all of those who her work meant so much to.”
The label has always had family at the heart of it — Kate founded Frances Valentine with her husband of 24 years, Andy, 56, as well as Elyce Arons, who was her best friend since they were college freshmen. The designer also named it after her daughter, Frances Beatrix (“Bea”), 13. (The Spades and Arons launched the line a decade after Kate left her namesake empire, which they helped build together.)
Therefore, when it came time to casting the campaign for spring, turning to Kate’s niece was an obvious choice. “She’s always been very close to Katy, and she’s been a part of the company since the beginning,” Arons, now the CEO of Frances Valentine, says of Brosnahan. “She said yes to the idea, and here we are!”
The campaign itself is a tribute to the late designer’s signature colorful aesthetic and vision of spreading joy through vibrant fashion designs that feature whimsical touches. And many details of the shoot incorporated things the designer loved.
The photographs were shot in one of Kate’s favorite places, her Frances Valentine New York showroom overlooking Bryant Park. “It has really high ceilings, and all of Katy and Andy’s art is up everywhere,” says Arons. “It’s such a beautiful space to be in.”
Plus, a playlist that Kate, Andy and Arons put together for the showroom featuring Kate’s favorites songs by John Lennon, Joni Mitchell and the Rolling Stones played in the background. “I couldn’t keep a smile off my face, it was such a fun day,” says Arons.
Then, the photos themselves, taken by Frances Valentine art director Maggie Cepis, are reminiscent of Kate’s signature look. With an undone bun, stacks of beautiful baubles, colorful bags in her hand and in a vintage-inspired ensemble, Brosnahan is a mirror-image of her aunt.
“I think it’s more meaningful than any other campaign we’ve done because it’s [Rachel], and she was so close to Katy,” says Arons. “I know it would really make Katy smile.”
The products Brosnahan wears are also significant, as many pieces in Frances Valentine’s spring line are inspired by Kate’s personal wardrobe and named after those closest to her.
For example, in one of the campaign shots, the actress holds a square yellow satchel named the “Midge.” Arons shared that Kate actually named it after her niece’s beloved character on Maisel after the first season was released in 2017, before Kate’s death. It now comes in a variety of colors, from light blue to pink. “Katy loved color,” says Arons. “She was not afraid of it.” For this bag, however, Arons thinks she would have picked green. (The “Midge” and the rest of the pieces Brosnahan wears in the campaign are all available now on francesvalentine.com.)
The actress, meanwhile, is happy to help keep her aunt’s legacy alive and be a part of the future of her label Frances Valentine. Last night, she even hosted an event at the brand’s Madison Avenue pop-up shop to raise money for a cause close to her heart, the Covenant House, which helps homeless youth.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273- TALK (8255), text “HOME” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.