Fashion designer and retail icon Kate Spade was found dead at her Manhattan apartment today. The cause of death was an apparent suicide. She was 55 years old. Spade was “an American fashion heroine,” says Booth Moore, style and fashion news director at The Hollywood Reporter. She launched her line of boxy, neon bags in 1993 and found overnight success, becoming a status symbol for a generation of women.
The bags were priced from about $200 to $500 and had a “modern, preppy, peppy aesthetic.” She and her husband, Andy Spade, soon extended the brand to clothing, jewelry, shoes, and home products.
Spade has had less business success recently. After selling her eponymous fashion line to Neiman Marcus -- which was later sold to Liz Claiborne and then Coach -- she lost the ability to use her own name in business. She even changed her name to Kate Valentine after launching her new line Frances Valentine in 2016, which has not had the success of her first venture.
Political figures from Chelsea Clinton to Ivanka Trump have weighed in on Twitter with their condolences and recollections of their first Kate Spade bag, as well as Hollywood celebrities like Lena Dunham and Mindy Kaling.
Moore tells DnA why Kate Spade’s death has come as such a shock to so many.
“I think it’s a beloved American brand. What’s sad is that the sunny aesthetic she created couldn’t be farther from this tragic end to her life,” Moore said.
A Kate Spade handbag. Photo credit: Ambedo.