News of fashion designer Kate Spade’s death sent shock waves across social media on Tuesday.
Spade, 55, was found dead at her home on Park Avenue in New York City according to the New York City Police Department. Police officials said Spade was found “unconscious and unresponsive” from an apparent suicide by hanging according to various reports.
Spade is survived by her husband, Andy Spade (brother of comedian David Spade) and her 13-year-old daughter, Frances.
On social media, celebrities and other fans of the brand offered condolences and urged the fashion industry to fight the stigma of mental illness.
Some fans of the brand commented on the cheeriness and whimsy that is associated with Kate Spade and credited the designer with uplifting them through dreary moments in life, but it has been more than a decade since Spade was personally associated with the Kate Spade brand.
Spade, a former journalist who worked as a style editor at Mademoiselle, founded the eponymous brand in 1993 with her husband. Within about five years, the iconic square nylon bags with a “Kate Spade New York” label could be spotted on the shoulders of fashionable women across NYC and the company had revenues of $27 million, according to a recent story about the brand in Forbes magazine.
In 1999, they sold a majority stake in the company to Neiman Marcus and in 2006, Spade and her partners sold the remaining 44 percent to Neiman Marcus. A week after the sale, Neiman Marcus sold the company to Liz Claiborne for a reported $124 million. Spade stopped designing the brand in 2007.
Last year, Kate Spade was acquired by Tapestry, Inc. a multi-national company comprised of three luxury brands including Kate Spade, Coach and Stuart Weitzman. At the time of the sale, Kate Spade lovers wondered if the brand would change but in an interview with Racked, Coach CEO Victor Luis said the brand would remain independent.
“This isn’t about bringing Kate Spade into Coach stores,” said Luis during a webcast in May. But he did note that the brand would begin pulling away from departments stores, online flash sales and other channels that were heavily dependent on discounting.
Meanwhile, Spade herself was preparing for her next move. She changed her name to Kate Valentine, an effort to rebrand herself and leave behind the name she no longer owned in order to launch a new venture .
In spring 2016, Frances Valentine, a shoe and handbag collection named after her daughter made its debut. Valentine is the middle name of her mom’s father who was born on Valentine’s Day.
“There were a lot of things we made up and we thought that wasn’t feeling right,” said Andy Spade in an interview with Women’s Wear Daily. “A person’s name felt like this thing that was part of us, that connection, something real.”
The new team included Spade’s old business partners and is dedicated to craftsmanship and high standards. On the website, the brand is introduced as a new adventure and a fresh vision for Spade.