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:
totally shocked to hear about Kate Spade. She was an inspiration to me and to millions of @HowIBuiltThis listeners. Thank you for everything you did for American fashion and entrepreneurship. One of my favorite interviews ever: https://t.co/oSkGCQw3rW
— Guy Raz (@guyraz) June 5, 2018
— kate spade new york (@katespadeny) June 5, 2018
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
And a reminder of mental health struggles:
Kate Spade's suicide reminds us once again that wealth and fame does not equate to an immunity to depression. People who are shocked that successful people can possibly kill themselves do not understand the challenges of mental health.
— Writer Louis Leung (@ricedaddy7) June 5, 2018
Our hearts are with Kate Spade’s friends and family. As we learn more, remember to talk about suicide in a safe way:
-say “died by suicide” or “took his/her life”, not “committed suicide”
-exclude details of method used
-exclude depictions, location of death and notes left behind
— NAMI (@NAMICommunicate) June 5, 2018
Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter at @lauraspencer.