Kate Spade dead at 55

Kate Spade in her showroom in 1999. (Marilynn K Yee/The New York Times)

Kate Spade in her showroom in 1999. (Marilynn K Yee/The New York Times)

Kate Spade, a fashion designer famous for her handbag brand of the same name, died on Tuesday in her New York City apartment at the age of 55.

Spade’s body was discovered in her bedroom on Tuesday morning. Police suspect that Spade took her own life by hanging and are calling it “an apparent suicide,” according to the New York Times. A police official announced there was a note left addressed to the designer’s daughter, Frances Beatrix.

The company’s website released a statement honouring their late founder, “Kate Spade, the visionary founder of our brand, has passed.
Our thoughts are with her family at this incredibly heartbreaking time. We honor all the beauty she brought into this world.”

The fashion mogul, who was referred to as Katy by friends and family, was born in Kansas City, Missouri on Christmas Eve of 1962, according to the New York Times. While growing up, Spade was not originally interested in pursuing a fashion career. After receiving a degree in journalism from Arizona State University, she moved to New York and worked at Mademoiselle magazine as an assistant fashion editor.

According to the company’s website, Spade left Mademoiselle in 1993 with the mission to design “the perfect handbag.” She soon launched her company, Kate Spade, with her husband, Andy Spade.

In 1996, the company took off as Spade launched her first store. The company soon sold clothes and accessories in addition to handbags. According to Cosmopolitan magazine, the successful brand was sold to Neiman Marcus in 2006 and in 2007 with the company’s name being changed to ‘Kate Spade & Company’. The year before the Spades sold the company, it made $28-million in sales, according to the New York Times.

In 2016, Spade launched a second business, which manufactures accessories under the name Frances Valentine. With this new venture, Spade changed her last name to Valentine. Speaking in an interview with People magazine said she was excited to see where her next business venture would take her.

“I’m not looking to go backwards and to do anything that we’ve already done… I’m a little less nervous, not so much about the company, but in terms of how I dress, how I design. It’s how I began Kate Spade. I don’t want to lose that feeling as the company grows,” she said.

One of Spade’s colleagues at Mademoiselle, Elizabeth Kiester, told Vogue magazine about Spade’s spirit and passion for fashion, “She made everything fun. Her editing style was about taking risks and championing not just the obvious and the tried and true designers. She was a seeker… She was very confident in who she was.”

In addition to being a fashion designer, Spade launched her own philanthropic venture called the Kate Spade & Company foundation, which funds nonprofit organisations that “address women’s economic empowerment.”  According to their website, the foundation hopes to empower women in entrepreneurship, women in technology and women in the arts. Each year the company donates $1.2 million in grants to NGOs.

In a letter to The Kansas City Star, one of Kate’s five siblings, Reta Saffo, wrote that her sister had struggled with mental health issues. Saffo believed that Spade displayed symptoms of bipolar disorder, but she was never diagnosed by medical professionals.

“I will say this was not unexpected by me. She was always a very excitable little girl and I felt all the stress/pressure of her brand (KS) may have flipped the switch where she eventually became full-on manic depressive. Sometimes you simply cannot SAVE people from themselves” she wrote.

Actor and comedian David Spade, posted on Twitter remembering his late sister-in-law, “I dont think everyone knew how fucking funny she was… Its a rough world out there people. Try to hang on,” he wrote.

Other celebrities are also mourning Spade’s unexpected death. Comedian Mindy Kaling wrote on Twitter, “I am heartbroken about the news of Kate Spade. I have worn her clothes many, many times. They were colorful, bold, cheerful, and encouraged women to find the twinkly person inside them. You couldn’t walk into her boutiques and not smile. Rest In Peace, Kate.”

Spade is survived by her husband, Andy, and her 13-year-old daughter, Frances Beatrix.

Arielle Schwartz

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