Mental illness wins this one. Kate Spade, a super successful designer, billionaires, with a husband and young daughter. Oh god, how bad things must have been for her to take this action?
Mental illness, insidious, heinous, deadly, masked, terrifying.
The American designer Kate Spade was found dead on Tuesday, according to police officials.
The police said that Ms. Spade, 55, was discovered unresponsive at a Park Avenue apartment, where she had hanged herself. She had left a note, but the official did not comment on what it said. She was pronounced dead at the scene at 10:26 a.m.
A housekeeper found Ms. Spade in her bedroom hanging from a red scarf tied to a doorknob, the police said. She was unconscious and the housekeeper called 911.
Ms. Spade’s husband was at the scene. A police spokesman did not know the whereabouts of Ms. Spade’s daughter.
Born Kate Brosnahan in Kansas City, Mo., in December 1962, Ms. Spade was one of the first of a powerful wave of female American contemporary designers in the 1990s.
She built a brand on the appeal of clothes and accessories that made women smile, her cheerful lack of restraint and bright prints striking a chord with consumers. She herself was the embodiment of her aesthetic, with her proto-1960s bouffant, nerd glasses and kooky grin, which masked a business mind that saw the opportunities in becoming a lifestyle brand, almost before the term officially existed.
Ms. Spade, who had been the accessories editor of Mademoiselle magazine, founded Kate Spade with her husband-to-be, Andy and a friend, Elyce Arons, in 1993. Frustrated with the handbags of the era, which she found to be over-accessorized, she had wanted “a functional bag that was sophisticated and had some style,” she told The New York Times in 1999.
She did not know what to call the company at first and decided to make it a combination of the names of the co-founders. After the first show, she realized that the bags needed a little something extra to catch people’s eyes. She took the label, which originally had been on the inside of the bag, and sewed it to the outside. With that gesture, she created a brand identity and her empire.
Within a few years, she had opened a SoHo shop and was collecting industry awards, her name a shorthand for the cute, clever bags that were an instant hit with career women and, later, young girls, status symbols of a more attainable, all-American sort than a Fendi clutch or Chanel bag. Ms. Spade became the very visible face of her brand.
In 1999, the Spades sold the business to Neiman Marcus Group, and the company changed hands several times after that — in 2006, Neiman Marcus Group sold it to Liz Claiborne, Inc., which eventually shed its other holdings to become the publicly-traded Kate Spade & Company, itself acquired in 2017 by Coach, Inc. (After the Kate Spade acquisition, Coach, Inc. became the holding company Tapestry, which also owns Coach and Stuart Weitzman.)
By then, the Spades had been gone a decade, having left in 2007 to devote themselves to other projects. Ms. Spade dedicated herself to her family and to philanthropy, and in 2016, together with her husband, Ms. Arons, and Paola Venturi, a Kate Spade alum, launched a new venture, an accessories label called Frances Valentine. Ms. Spade was so committed to the project that she told interviews she had changed her surname from Spade to Valentine.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.