Fashion lost one of its own creative and witty souls today, as designer, entrepreneur, role model, and icon Kate Spade was found dead in her New York City residence of apparent suicide.
According to an official police statement, Spade appeared to have hung herself and was found in her bedroom “unconscious and unresponsive.” The 55-year-old is survived by her husband Andy and 13-year-old daughter Frances.
NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea confirmed that “At about 10:10 this morning, members of the 19th precinct responded to an address on Park Avenue. It appears at this point in time to be a tragic case of apparent suicide, but it is early in the investigation. There was a suicide note left at the scene. I’m not going to get into the contents of that note, but that appears to be the sum total of what it is at this point. But we still have detectives on the scene, it’s still a fairly fresh incident.” Spade was “discovered by the housekeeper.”
“We are all devastated by today’s tragedy. We loved Kate dearly and will miss her terribly. We would ask that our privacy be respected as we grieve during this very difficult time,” shared the Spade family via a statement.
Kate Spade was born Katherine Noel Brosnahan on December 24, 1962, in Kansas City. She was the only child of June and Earl Francis Brosnahan and after all-girls’ Catholic school, attended the University of Kansas and Arizona State University, graduating with a degree in journalism in 1985.
Soon after, Katy, as she was known, moved to New York to work at Mademoiselle magazine where she served for five years in the accessories department before launching Kate Spade with her soon-to-be husband, Andy Spade, in 1993.
The firm initially sold handbags and soon after expanded its offerings to items ranging from clothing to stationary to fragrances to bedding. In 1996 the brand opened its first boutique in SoHo. That same year Spade was awarded the “America’s New Fashion Talent in Accessories” and went on to win the “Best Accessory Designer of the Year” two years later by the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
She revolutionized the handbag market, marrying an irreverent sense of wit with approachable luxury. In 2006, Spade sold the brand to Liz Claiborne Inc., which later changed the parent Liz Claiborne company’s name to Kate Spade & Company. Last year, Coach owner, Tapestry, acquired the brand.
In 2005, Kate Spade gave birth to her daughter Frances Beatrix Spade and took time off to raise Frances. During that time, Spade teamed up with illustrator Virginia Johnson and editor Ruth Peltason to publish a three-volume set of books: “Manners,” “Occasions,” and “Style.” In 2015, she and husband Andy launched Frances Valentine, a luxury brand offering footwear and handbags.
Last year the Henry W. Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, inducted Kate Spade into the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame. Fast Company named her one of the Most Creative People in Business.
On a personal note I had the good fortune to sit with Kate and Andy to learn more about their venture from flirting students who met while working at the same Arizona specialty store with Andy giving Kate a ride home one night. Several years, some scotch tape, and burlap mocks later, the duo launched a label that forever changed the accessory market.
Kate was a gem. She was precious, bright, warm, and inviting. She often reminded me of a 1920’s literary wit who was cheeky, had a good wink, and knew how to balance a good drink with a joke.
We lost a warm and wonderful light today, and her passing is a loss and a reminder. A reminder of the fragility of our creative profession, one that requires support for financial, emotional, and mental well-being. Our choices, words, ability to listen, and financial support for each other matter. We are an ecosystem and an extended family, one that far too often doesn’t stop to take the time to share how much we appreciate one another and explain that we are here for one another in good times as well as in bad. And with that I ask each of you to look left and right on your journey to help one another traverse difficult times together. Before another bright light is shuttered.
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