New York-based designer Kate Spade died Tuesday, the eponymous company she launched in the ’90s confirmed. She was 55.
“We honor all the beauty she brought into this world,” read a statement released by Kate Spade New York in the hours after her death became known.
The designer reportedly died by suicide. She was found by her housekeeper at her Manhattan home, where she left a note, several outlets reported.
Spade, born Katherine Noel Brosnahan, was best known for her namesake brand of high-end modern handbags that grew to incorporate other womenswear. She was honored twice by the Council of Fashion Designers of America throughout a career marked by cheerful colors and peppy patterns.
Spade leaves behind one daughter, Frances Beatrix Spade, 13, along with her husband Andy Spade, 55.
“We are all devastated by today’s tragedy,” the Spade family said in a statement provided to The New York Times. “We loved Kate dearly and will miss her terribly. We would ask that our privacy be respected as we grieve during this very difficult time.”
Spade was born on Christmas Eve of 1962 in Kansas City, Missouri. She met her frequent collaborator and future husband Andy Spade in the mid-1980s, when both were students at Arizona State University working in the same clothing store, they told The Impression, a fashion publication.
After getting her start at Mademoiselle magazine, Spade turned her attention to her own creations. In 1993, she and Andy founded Kate Spade New York with business partner Elyce Arons, debuting a line of sleek handbags that became a smash hit.
The group opened their first storefront in 1996. More than 140 Kate Spade stores operate today, offering brightly hued accessories as well as clothing, eyewear and home decor. The husband-and-wife duo parted ways with their successful company in 2007, after selling to Liz Claiborne Inc. (Today, the brand is part of Tapestry Inc. along with Coach.)
Spade took a break from fashion until around 2015, when she and Andy rejoined with Arons to launch a new venture: Frances Valentine.
Asked why she wanted to get back into the industry, the Spades told Business of Fashion that they thought it would be good for their daughter “to see her mother work.”
Frances Valentine, with which she was involved until her death, focuses solely on shoes and handbags. Like Kate Spade, its name held special significance. “Frances” is a family name on Spade’s paternal side, she once told WWD, and “Valentine” was her grandfather’s middle name.
Upon the company’s launch, the designer known for her eponymous offerings added “Frances Valentine” to her own name, she told NPR. She is officially Katherine Noel Frances Valentine Brosnahan Spade. (“It’s pretty long,” she said.)
Celebrities and fashion elite reacted to her death with shock and sympathy on Tuesday.
On behalf of the CFDA, CEO Steven Kolb and designer Diane von Furstenberg released a statement to say they felt “devastated.”
“She was a great talent who had an immeasurable impact on American fashion and the way the world viewed American accessories,” they said. “We want to honor her life and her major contribution to the fashion business and express our most sincere condolences to the family.”
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.