Kate Spade commits suicide; award-winning fashion designer was 55

June 5, 2018

by Jennifer Taft

Fashion designer Kate Spade has committed suicide by hanging. She was 55. According to the Associated Press, Spade was found dead by her housekeeper in her New York apartment the morning of June 5, 2018. She reportedly hanged herself with a red scarf and left behind a suicide note saying that her 13-year-old daughter, Frances Valentine, should not feel guilty over the death. At the time of the suicide, Frances Valentine was reportedly at school, while Kate’s husband Andy was at their home in another room.

Kate Spade (whose maiden name was Brosnahan) was an accessories editor at Condé Nast before she decided to become a fashion designer. She married Andy Spade (the brother of actor David Spade) in 1994, the year after the couple founded the fashion company Kate Spade New York, which was followed by the men’s brand Jack Spade. The Kate Spade New York brand became known for its accessories (especially handbags) and then women’s clothing.

In 1999, the Spades sold 56 percent of Kate Spade New York to Neiman Marcus for $34 million, and sold the remaining share to the company in 2006 for a reported $59 million.  Kate Spade New York was sold again in 2017 to Coach’s Tapestry Inc. for $2.4 billion.  The Kate Spade New York brand currently has 315 stores around the world, including 140 in the United States.

In 2015, Kate launched another fashion brand, Frances Valentine, named after her only child.

Besides being the sister-in-law of David Spade, Kate Spade was also the aunt of actress Rachel Brosnahan, who stars in the Amazon series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

A Kate Spade New York representative issued this statement: “We at Kate Spade New York just learned of the incredibly sad news that Kate Spade has passed. Although Kate has not been affiliated with the brand for more than a decade, she and her husband and creative partner, Andy, were the founders of our beloved brand. Kate will be dearly missed. Our thoughts are with Andy and the entire Spade family at this time.”

The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) awarded Kate Spade with two prizes: America’s New Fashion Talent in Accessories in 1996 and Best Accessory Designer of the Year in 1998.

CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg and CFDA CEO Steven Kolb issued this statement: “The CFDA is devastated to hear the news of our friend, colleague, and CFDA member Kate Spade’s tragic passing. She was a great talent who had an immeasurable impact on American fashion and the way the world viewed American accessories. We want to honor her life and her major contribution to the fashion business and express our most sincere condolences to the family.”

June 6, 2018 UPDATE:

Andy Spade issued this public statement: “Kate was the most beautiful woman in the world. She was the kindest person I’ve ever known and my best friend for 35 years. My daughter and I are devastated by her loss, and can’t even begin to fathom life without her. We are deeply heartbroken and miss her already,” Andy’s statement began. “Kate suffered from depression and anxiety for many years. She was actively seeking help and working closely with her doctors to treat her disease, one that takes far too many lives. We were in touch with her the night before and she sounded happy. There was no indication and no warning that she would do this. It was a complete shock. And it clearly wasn’t her. There were personal demons she was battling.

“For the past 10 months we had been living separately, but within a few blocks of each other … We ate many meals together as a family and continued to vacation together as a family. Our daughter was our priority. We were not legally separated, and never even discussed divorce. We were best friends trying to work through our problems in the best way we knew how. We were together for 35 years. We loved each other very much and simply needed a break.”

“This is the truth. Anything else that is out there right now is false. [Kate] was actively seeking help for depression and anxiety over the last 5 years, seeing a doctor on a regular basis and taking medication for both depression and anxiety. There was no substance or alcohol abuse. There were no business problems. We loved creating our businesses together. We were co-parenting our beautiful daughter. I have yet to see any note left behind and am appalled that a private message to my daughter has been so heartlessly shared with the media,” the statement concluded. “My main concern is Bea and protecting her privacy as she deals with the unimaginable grief of losing her mother. Kate loved Bea so very much.”

Kate Spade’s brother Earl Brosnahan has also released a statement: “We are grateful for the incredible outpouring of love and support the family has received over the last few days. We should all remember the beauty and joy that Kate brought to this world. But it is sad and very hurtful, given the pain the family is enduring, that people with no real knowledge of the situation are leaking false, speculative information that maligns Kate’s character and belittles the health issues she bravely fought. We once again ask that the family’s privacy be respected during this challenging time.”