Local stylists reflect on how KC native Kate Spade influenced their careers, lives

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- There's no doubt, here in Kansas City, Kate Spade had a big impact on aspiring stylists.

Several local fashion influencers gathered Thursday night at Legends Outlets night for Passport to Style. Annie Austen of the Austen Adventures said Kate Spade was one of the biggest influencers of her style and career.

"Being from Kansas City and going and pursuing your dreams and having such a happy bright brand was really inspiring to me," Austen said.

Designer Kate Spade attends the Tribeca Ball 2011 at the New York Academy of Art on April 4, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for New York Academy of Art)

"I think for anybody in any industry, when you know somebody comes from your hometown, you kind of have a soft spot in your heart for them. They influence you a lot. She had cheery designs bright pops of color her shapes and the structure of her products were totally timeless. You could have bought a Kate Spade 15 years ago, and you could still carry it today," stylist Sarah Hagler said.

Spade, 55, was found dead in her New York apartment this week after it appears she took her own life.

Now as fashion influencers from her hometown help others create their own personal styles in her image, they hope Spade's influence can reach far beyond fashion.

"Being honest and open about issues like mental health, just opening up that conversation, still being lively and happy and living through the influence of others is definitely an important way to honor someone`s life," Austen said.

"I hope if it does anything, it brings us closer together to say are you doing OK. Maybe it inspires one person to say, 'Cute purse, how’s your heart?'" Hagler said.

Spade and her husband sold their stake in the company that still bears her name years ago, but signs placed outside stores worldwide continue to honor her role as a visionary. A Kate Spade New York store opened at Legends in March.