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Fashion Designer And Kansas City Native Kate Spade Dies At 55

Bloch News
Fashion designer and Kansas City native Kate Spade was found dead at 55 on Tuesday.

Fashion designer Kate Spade, 55, was found dead in her New York City apartment on Tuesday. The Associated Press reports that she died by suicide. 

She was born Katherine Noel Brosnahan in Kansas City, Missouri, and graduated from St. Teresa's Academy. She went on to attend the University of Kansas, and switched to Arizona State University. That's where she met her future husband, Andy Spade.

After graduation, the couple moved to New York City. And, in 1993, they, along with a business partner, Elyce Arons, co-founded the namesake company Kate Spade New York. Their first store opened in New York City's SoHo neighborhood in 1996.

Kate Spade handbags became known for their modern look and pops of color. "I wanted a functional bag that was sophisticated and had some style," Spade told the New York Times in 1999. 

The Spades sold a majority stake to Neiman Marcus Group for $33.6 million in 1999. And in 2006, they sold the remainder of their shares to Neiman Marcus, who then sold the company to Liz Claiborne Inc. for $124 million.

Along with two business partners, Kate and Andy Spade launched a new endeavor in 2016, a brand named for their daughter, Frances Valentine, with a focus on shoes and handbags. Spade told the Star that with the new line she was "paying more attention to the architecture, to the shape of the heel, the point of the toe, the sculptural details of the bag."

The Kate Spade brand has continued on, for more than a decade now, without its founders. Coach acquired it in 2017 for $2.4 billion. According to the company's website, Kate Spade New York has more than 80 retail shops and outlet stores in the United States and more than 100 shops internationally.

In 2017, Spade was inducted into the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. At the time, her older brother, Earl Brosnahan, said of his sister: "Kate demonstrated early on what would later become her iconic personality traits: quiet determination, passion for the things she loved and dedication to overcoming obstacles."

Across social media, people started sharing their thoughts: 

And a reminder of mental health struggles: 

Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter at @lauraspencer.

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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