Fashion designer Kate Spade has been found dead in her New York City apartment in an apparent suicide, police said.
Spade, 55, was found by her housekeeper at her home on Park Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side on Tuesday morning, the New York Daily News reported, citing unnamed police officials.
The designer is famed for building a fashion empire on the popularity of her signature handbags before selling the brand.
Born Katherine Noel Brosnahan in Kansas City, Missouri, Spade was a former accessories editor at the now-closed Mademoiselle magazine before she and Andy Spade launched their namesake design company, Kate Spade New York, in 1993. The couple married the following year.
They began by selling handbags before expanding to include clothing, jewellery, bedding, legwear and fragrances.
The brand grew into a fashion empire, known for accessories that offered affordable luxury to younger working women.
Her brightly coloured, clean-lined style offered a spunky take on fashion at a time when luxury handbags were out of reach to most consumers and the industry was dominated by venerable European brands.
The couple sold their last stake in the brand in 2006 to focus on raising their daughter, Frances Beatrix Spade.
In 2016, they launched a new footwear and accessories brand called Frances Valentine, naming it after their daughter who is now 13.
Tapestry Inc (TPR.N), the handbag company formerly known as Coach, eventually bought the Kate Spade brand in May 2017 to tap millennials, who are drawn to the company’s quirky satchels and colourful tote bags.
The company’s share price dipped by 1 per cent to $44.68 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
Kate Spade New York released a statement calling the news “incredibly sad”.
“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,” the statement said.
“Kate will be dearly missed.”
The Council of Fashion Designers of America in a statement called Spade “a great talent who had an immeasurable impact on American fashion and the way the world viewed American accessories”.
The New York City chief medical examiner’s office said the cause of Spade’s death was under investigation.
Tributes flood in for designer
In response to the death, fans of the brand began posting pictures of their favourite handbags on social media.
Chelsea Clinton, former US president Bill Clinton’s daughter, was one of the first to offer her tribute to Spade.
“My grandmother gave me my first Kate Spade bag when I was in college,” she wrote on Twitter.
“I still have it.”
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.
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) June 5, 2018
Ivanka Trump, a daughter of and adviser to US President Donald Trump, described Spade’s death on Twitter as “a painful reminder that we never truly know another’s pain or the burden they carry”.
Tributes flooded in from a series of celebrities online, mourning the designer’s death and reiterating the importance of mental health awareness.
Actress Lucy Hale said she was “saddened” by the news and reminded her followers mental illness “can happen to anyone”.
Plus-size model Tess Holliday said she was “crushed” by the news.
“My heart goes out to her family and team today,” she wrote on Twitter.
“Depression does not discriminate and comes without warning. RIP Kate Spade. Love to her family,” singer Josh Groban tweeted.
Very saddened to hear about the passing of Kate Spade. Mental illness does not discriminate and can happen to anyone with any circumstances. I hope she has found peace ❤️
— Lucy Hale (@lucyhale) June 5, 2018
Kate Spade & her brand have always been so kind to me the past couple years & I’m crushed to hear about her passing. Suicide isn’t “the easy way out” and shouldn’t be mocked. My heart goes out to her family & team today
— Tess Holliday (@Tess_Holliday) June 5, 2018
Depression does not discriminate and comes without warning. RIP Kate Spade. Love to her family.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
— josh groban (@joshgroban) June 5, 2018
Spade told National Public Radio (NPR) last year she first discussed starting a handbag company with Andy while they ate at a Mexican restaurant in 1991.
“I said, ‘Honey, you don’t just start a handbag company’,” she told NPR.
“And he said, ‘Why not, how hard can it be?'”