It is a sudden loss for fashion lovers obsessed with the woman who dressed us in bright colors, polka dots and fun fashion — Kate Spade.
The 55-year-old designer was found dead in her New York City apartment Tuesday just hours after the fashion community gathered at this year’s CFDA Fashion Awards. She apparently took her own life, police sources confirmed to ABC News.
Spade was known for statement handbags in the shape of flamingos, apples, frogs, crabs, snails and pineapples. She created dresses that flowed in a summer’s breeze and ones that stiffened for the boardroom. Her shoes provided a coquettish end to any outfit.
The Kansas City, Missouri native initially had a passion for journalism when she began her career, obtaining a degree in the field from Arizona State University.
A year later, in 1986, she started working in the fashion accessories department at Mademoiselle magazine, where her maiden name, Katy Brosnahan, appeared on the masthead. And in a title change that proves she knew fashion intimately, she left the magazine in 1991 as senior fashion editor.
Finding love in her life would also create for her an eponymous fashion house.
Spade met her now-husband Andy Spade, the brother of actor David Spade, and together they founded her line of handbags in 1993.
Years later, her dream — and offerings — would expand into hundreds of Kate Spade New York stores in North America and in Japan, with her products on shelves in more than 450 stores worldwide. By 2015, Spade sold her company to shoe designer Stuart Weitzman for $574 million. Tapestry, previously known as Coach, Inc., later acquired the company for $2.4 billion.
Recently, Spade moved on to launch a new luxury brand, Frances Valentine. She was so committed to the idea of bringing new luxury shoes and handbags to market that she even legally changed her name to Kate Valentine Spade.
For all that she had built in business, Spade made her role as a mother to her now 13-year-old daughter her top priority. The designer, who’d often boast about not having professional help, took time off from leading her fashion house to raise her. And she made sure that her company helped working mothers like herself.
Mary Breech, the chief marketing officer, told blog Hey Mama last year that Kate Spade was an “inclusive” place to be a working mom.
“Kate Spade & Company is a great place to be a mom,” she said. “Leaving my children for so many hours each week isn’t easy, but I am honestly able to say without hesitation that I love what I do, the people I work with, and the things I work on.”
But it didn’t mean motherhood was without stress for Spade.
“Being a mother adds an enormous amount of stress to your life. You need to make sure you’re there for everything. We don’t have other people to do it for us — I want to make sure I’m there,” she told The Cut in 2016. “When you’re trying to be a parent and a businessperson at the same time, that is the most stressful thing you could do.”
Spade never strayed too far from her magazine days, penning four books. Her latest, “Muses, Visionaries and Madcap Heroines,” was a coffee table book, featuring real and fictional heroines like onscreen fashion icons Carrie Bradshaw of “Sex and the City” and Cher Horowitz of “Clueless.”
The designer, who was in the midst of building her Frances Valentine label, spent “exhausting” mornings sipping Diet Pepsi while trying very hard to get it all done, she told The Cut in 2016.
“I’m a little OCD,” she told the site. “I turn on all the lights, get everything going, start making breakfast. I slowly wake up my daughter up — I give her a little nudge every ten minutes. I swear to god, it’s so exhausting.”
Spade continued, “I feed the dog; I feed the fish. My husband, Andy, runs to Starbucks because he doesn’t want any part of that banter. I’m in my daughter’s room going, ‘Oh my god, I asked you 20 minutes ago and you’re still in your pajamas.’ It’s a little mini-battle.”
She loved listening to the Rolling Stones and the Jackson 5, she said in the same interview. She loved slipping into her pajamas immediately after having family dinner. She loved traveling and finding inspiration on the road. It seemed like a full life, but Spade seemed to enjoy it.
“My life is a little kooky,” she told The Cut, “but a lot of fun.”