Kate Spade Co. said its first-quarter sales grew, driven by a surge in its core Kate Spade brand.

The company posted a wider loss from continuing operations, however.

The former Fifth & Pacific Cos. and Liz Claiborne Inc. became Kate Spade in February. Former chief William McComb narrowed the company's focus to the namesake handbag brand by shedding dozens of others--most recently Lucky Brand--over the past eight years. Along with this greater emphasis on the Kate Spade brand, the company--along with rival Michael Kors Holdings Ltd.--has cut into competitor Coach Inc.'s share of the handbag market.

Chief Executive Craig A. Leavitt said the company's performance "continued to be very strong" in the quarter. The company had said in February that the first quarter had started off in a positive direction, even amid the severe winter weather that weighed on so many other companies' results for the period.

Overall, Kate Spade posted a profit of $46.2 million, or 37 cents a share, compared with a loss of $52.2 million, or 44 cents a share, a year earlier. Results from continuing operations--which include the winding-down Juicy Couture brand but exclude Lucky--reflected a loss of $54.7 million, or 44 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier loss of $39.6 million, or 33 cents a share.

Net sales, which also include Juicy Couture but exclude Lucky Brand, rose 34% to $328.1 million.

Net sales of the Kate Spade brand rose 54% to $217 million, outpacing the $202 million projected by analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters.

Kate Spade direct-to-consumer sales rose 29% on a comparable basis, including the benefit of a 14th week of sales. Without that week, direct sales rose 22%, the company said.