Kate Brosnahan Spade, who created an iconic, accessible handbag line that bridged Main Street and high-end fashion, died Tuesday, June 5, at her Manhattan apartment. The designer, 55, started Kate Spade New York in 1993 and opened her first shop in the city three years later, the company’s website states. Ms. Spade worked as an editor before making the leap to designing, constructing her first sketches from paper and Scotch tape. She would come to attach her name to a bounty of products, and ideas: home goods and china and towels and so much else, all of it poised atop the thin line between accessibility and luxury.
Buying a Kate Spade handbag was a coming-of-age ritual for a generation of American women. The designer created an accessories empire that helped define the look of an era. The purses she made became a status symbol and a token of adulthood. Best known for its colorful handbags, Kate Spade New York has more than 140 retail shops and outlet stores across the United States and more than 175 stores internationally, the site states. Over time, she distanced herself from her business. In 1999, she and her husband, Andy Spade, sold 56% of the brand to Neiman Marcus for $33.6 million. Liz Claiborne acquired the company in 2007, and Spade left her namesake brand. The luxury fashion company Coach announced plans in May 2017 to buy Kate Spade for $2.4 billion. “Everyone remembers their first Kate Spade,” CNN White House reporter and former fashion editor Kate Bennett said. “(The brand) became one of those accessible but quirky fun, timeless labels that everyone had to have, and her rise was synonymous with her name.” For many women, a Kate Spade handbag functioned as a symbol of professional achievement.
The loss of fashion icon Kate Spade deals a great blow to the fashion industry. She changed the idea that only European brands with a long history are luxurious; as an American woman, she changed the industry to include more modern tastes while also maintaining a classic elegance to her handbag designs. Her designs were celebrated for being more accessible than the European brands. To see such an important innovator fall to suicide serves as a sobering reminder that deep-rooted depression can affect even the most seemingly happy people. If you are someone who suffers from depression, then you need to open up to someone and seek help. If you believe someone to be dealing with depression, please serve as an ear to which that person can confide in without fear of judgment.
[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.]