Designer Kate Spade found dead in her apartment in apparent suicide

Thomas Urbain, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jun 06 2018 12:37 AM | Updated as of Jun 07 2018 03:03 PM

Kate Spade in a photo taken in New York on June 2, 2003. Celebrity website TMZ said Spade, especially known for her sleek handbags, hanged herself in her Park Avenue apartment Tuesday. File/Chip East, Reuters

(UPDATED) Designer Kate Spade, one of the biggest names in American fashion, was found dead Tuesday in New York after committing suicide, police said. She was 55.

Celebrity website TMZ said the designer -- especially known for her sleek handbags -- hanged herself in her Park Avenue apartment.

A police spokeswoman confirmed Spade committed suicide but told AFP the exact circumstances of her death were not yet clear.

Tributes to Spade poured in -- from celebrities, the fashion world and everyday women who admired her quintessential American style.

The Council of Fashion Designers of America said it was "devastated" at the news.

"She was a great talent who had an immeasurable impact on American fashion and the way the world viewed American accessories," said the statement from CFDA board chairman Diane von Furstenberg and CEO Steven Kolb.

Iconic handbags

Spade -- a Missouri native who first worked as a journalist, including a stint as accessories editor at Mademoiselle magazine -- launched her eponymous fashion label in 1993 with her husband Andy and the help of outside investors.

Her cheerful use of bright colors and prints proved a hit with career women. 

The brand, initially sold in several New York stores, opened its flagship in the city's Soho neighborhood in 1996.

Her designs represented the New York aesthetic -- a mix of modern and classic. It was so associated with the city that she eventually added its name to her label, Kate Spade New York. 

Her most famous handbag was the "Sam" -- a black mid-size rectangular bag. It was relaunched this year by the label in new prints and colors.

Beyond the label's signature handbags, Spade was also known for shoes. It later branched into ready-to-wear.

Medical examiners remove the body of Kate Spade from the Park Avenue apartment in New York on Tuesday. Brendan McDermid, Reuters

Many changes at label

In 1999, Spade ceded a majority stake in her company to high-end department store chain Neiman Marcus for $34 million. NM then sold the label to textiles giant Liz Claiborne.

Spade then sold the last of her shares in the company in the mid-2000s for another $59 million, and was no longer directly associated with the management of the company bearing her name. 

In the past few years, Spade -- born Katherine Brosnahan -- had launched a new ready-to-wear and accessories label, Frances Valentine.

In 2017, Coach bought the Kate Spade label, the last remnant of Liz Claiborne, in a deal worth $2.4 billion.

Over the years, the label had blossomed into a full lifestyle brand with more than 300 stores worldwide.

The company offered its condolences, calling Spade a "visionary," and saying: "We honor all the beauty she brought into this world."

Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton was among the many offering condolences to Spade's family on Twitter.

"My grandmother gave me my first Kate Spade bag when I was in college. I still have it. Holding Kate's family, friends and loved ones in my heart," Clinton said.

Actress Lena Dunham said: "Kate Spade was more than a designer. She had a quirky visual language that captivated Bat Mitzvah girls and artists alike.

"She was also a staple of NYC who spread good will. My heart breaks for her family. Thank you, Kate, from one of the millions you made feel beautiful."

Spade is survived by her husband and daughter.

Editor's note:

A group in the Philippines is dedicated to addressing those who have suicidal tendencies.

The crisis hotlines of the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation aim to make these individuals feel that someone is ready to listen to them.

These are their hotline numbers:

Information and Crisis Intervention Center

(02) 804-HOPE (4673)
0917-558-HOPE (4673) or (632) 211-4550
0917-852-HOPE (4673) or (632) 964-6876
0917-842-HOPE (4673) or (632) 964-4084

In Touch Crisis Lines:

(02) 893-7603 (24/7)
Globe (63917) 800.1123 (24/7)
Sun (63922) 893.8944 (24/7)