Kate Spade, Handbag Innovator, Found Dead of Apparent Suicide


Fashion icon Kate Spade was found dead in her Manhattan apartment of an apparent suicide this morning. A housekeeper found her hanged from a red scarf in her bedroom at her Park Avenue apartment and was pronounced dead at the scene by authorities. She was 55 years old.

Katherine Noel Brosnahan was born in Kansas City, Mo., in December 1962. She was not into fashion growing up – she thought about being a television producer early in life. After graduating from Arizona State University in 1985, where she studied journalism, she met her soon-to-be husband Andy Spade. Spade is the brother of former Saturday Night Live star and comedian, David Spade.

Kate moved to New York where she became an assistant fashion editor at Mademoiselle magazine. Within five years she would become the accessories editor. Frustrated by the handbags that were popular at the time, she set out to create “a functional bag that was sophisticated and had some style,” she would tell The New York Times.

“I grew up in the Midwest, where you have to have it (a fashion item) because you like it, not because you’re supposed to have it,” Spade would tell The Associated Press. “For our customers, fashion is in the right place in their life. It’s an adornment, not an obsession.”

In 1993, she founded her eponymous handbag company along with her husband Andy and a friend, Elyce Arons. The bags were picked up by Barneys New York and her company soon became a fashion institution, earning Spade numerous awards.

“Kate Spade had an enviable gift for understanding exactly what women the world over wanted to carry. She launched her label at a time when everyone thought that the definition of a handbag was strictly European, all decades-old serious status and wealth,” said Anna Wintour, the editor in chief of Vogue and artistic director of Condé Nast, in a statement.

“Then along came this thoroughly American young woman who changed everything. There was a moment when you couldn’t walk a block in New York without seeing one of her bags, which were just like her; colorful and unpretentious.”

Spade left the company in 2007, a year after it was acquired by Liz Claiborne Inc. Last year Kate Spade in Co. was purchased by Coach for several billion dollars. Today the company has more than 300 retail shops all over the world.

Spade is survived by her husband Andy and her 13-year-old daughter, Frances Beatrix Spade. According to authorities Ms. Spade left a note but they declined to comment on what it said.

We can all help prevent suicide. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones at 1-800-273-8255 and https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.

Photo by Ralph Daily via Flickr