Jackee de Lagarde ’98 oversees licensing at kate spade new york

by Nancy A. Ruhling

Jackee de Lagarde, the vice president of global licensing at kate spade new york, always figured she’d become a fashion designer. 

She grew up watching Style with Elsa Klensch, Fashion Television, House of Style, and Fashion File and dreamed of seeing her own work on the runway. In high school, she made her first sketches in a fashion class and organized a fashion show. 

But after spending two summers in FIT’s precollege program, she changed direction. “I realized that I loved the business aspect of fashion even more,” says de Lagarde, who went on to earn a BS in Fashion Buying and Merchandising in 1998.

At kate spade new york, de Lagarde oversees the brand’s 16 licensed categories, which include eyewear, watches, fashion accessories, fragrance, and home to name a few. She develops long term strategies, researches companies to manufacture, sell, and market branded products, and is responsible for the bottom line.

Her division partners with companies, known as licensees, to create products outside kate spade new york’s usual portfolio that are a natural fit for the brand, like fragrance or bedding.

The teams help licensees understand the brand aesthetic, identifiable by its bright colors, dots and stripes, and New York City heritage. “I often tell my licensees that if our product makes our customer smile, then we’ve done our job,” de Lagarde says.

“I often tell my licensees that if our product makes our customer smile, then we’ve done our job.”
—Jackee de Lagarde

Her teams also offer seasonal product design and marketing inspiration, and they ensure that the terms of the licensing agreement, which covers everything from minimum sales to intellectual property rights, are being upheld.

“The end consumer should not be able to tell whether a product was made by the brand internally or by a licensee.”

It was at her first full-time job, as a design and sales coordinator working on private-label brands for a boutique hosiery manufacturer and licensee, that de Lagarde was introduced to the world of licensing, a subject that, at the time, hadn’t been taught at FIT.

The company had the license for Nine West and other brands, and she was intrigued by the product development process, as well as how the merchandise was marketed to the consumer. One of the owners taught her about licensing and helped her get hired as a licensing and marketing manager at Randa, a men’s accessories company.

After that, de Lagarde worked for Sean John, French Connection, Dockers, and Kenneth Cole, before joining kate spade new york a decade ago as director of global licensing. She was promoted to vice president in 2022.

“The beauty of licensing is that it doesn’t just apply to fashion brands,” de Lagarde says. “You can transition into consumer products, art, media, and entertainment. You can be on the licensee or licensor side of the business as well as work for an agency that manages brands on behalf of licensors. You can even become an intellectual property lawyer.”

In her office, de Lagarde keeps a collection of products that have been “key brand moments” for the company. The picture frames, tea cups, jewelry boxes, fragrance, and striped faux fur scarf are all licensed products. Portraits by Steven Molina Contreras ’20.

As one of the few Black women in vice president-and-above roles in the fashion industry, de Lagarde says she has had to overcome bias and microaggressions.

“This affected how I showed up at work and the opportunities available to me,” she says. “I had an unwavering work ethic and the need to prove that I belonged in this industry. I felt I had to work harder than everyone else to get ahead and be respected.”

“I had an unwavering work ethic and the need to prove that I belonged in this industry.”
—Jackee de Lagarde

In the early 2000s, while at Randa, de Lagarde watched friends and colleagues find jobs in the urban streetwear market with companies like Rocawear, Sean John, Mecca and ECKO UNLTD.  She craved community and wanted to work alongside other Black professionals, while also building her career.

She networked tirelessly and, in 2003, got a licensing job at Sean John, which gave her what she was looking for. “I built a number of longstanding relationships and friendships through that role and learned a lot about myself, my worth, and what I want my path to be in this industry as a Black woman. I took what I learned and applied them to how I mentor and inspire others.” 

She and her brother, Jonathan de Lagarde, vice president of design for the fashion company The House of LR&C, navigated the industry together, encouraging each other throughout their careers.

At kate spade new york, de Lagarde finds ways to build community and help other Black employees. She is a founding member and former co-chair of Black Alliance, the first Employee Business Resource Group at Tapestry, kate spade new york’s parent company. She is also a member of Tapestry’s Inclusion Council.

Ultimately, de Lagarde hopes her story will encourage and motivate others inside and outside the industry. “I want people to remember me as a successful executive responsible for building iconic brands who also made time to listen and inspire others to do their best,” she says.