Kate Spade: Tributes pour in for ‘great talent’ after apparent suicide

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Media captionHow Kate Spade shaped the catwalk – and high street

The Council of Fashion Designers of America has paid tribute to Kate Spade, who died on Tuesday, calling her “a great talent who had an immeasurable impact on American fashion”.

Spade, a handbag and fashion designer, was found dead in her New York home.

Police said they were investigating her death, at 55, as an apparent suicide.

Spade’s family said in a statement that they were “devastated by today’s tragedy” and would “miss her terribly”. They asked for privacy.

The designer is survived by her husband, Andy Spade, and their teenage daughter, Frances Beatrix.

Spade, a former editor of fashion magazine Mademoiselle, created a fashion sensation in the 1990s with her line of handbags, and built an accessories empire that grew to hundreds of shops internationally.

“Kate Spade had an enviable gift for understanding exactly what women the world over wanted to carry,” Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue, said in a statement.

What were the circumstances of her death?

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AFP

Image caption

Reporters gathered outside Kate Spade’s apartment as news of her death emerged

Police said the designer’s housekeeper found her unresponsive on Tuesday at her Park Avenue apartment in Manhattan.

The New York police department chief of detectives, Dermot Shea, said a note had been found at the scene but he declined to reveal its contents. He said the evidence at her home pointed to “a tragic suicide”.

The New York Police Department confirmed Spade’s death under her birth name, Katherine Noel Brosnahan.

How did Spade become a household name?

Spade founded the Kate Spade Handbags brand in 1993 with her partner Andy, whom she had met while studying journalism at Arizona State University, and another friend, Elyce Arons.

The brand opened its first store in New York in 1996, with a stated aim of designing the perfect handbag. Its logo was the spades playing card symbol, and its bright and colourful patterned designs became a hallmark of its products.

She married Andy Spade in 1994 and they had one daughter.

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Reuters

Spade sold her namesake brand in 2007 and it was bought last year by New York rival designer Coach in a deal worth $2.4bn (£1.8bn). She and her husband then set up another design venture, Frances Valentine, named after their daughter.

Spade legally changed her name to Kate Valentine (Valentine was her grandfather’s middle name) in 2016 to “separate the two worlds”, she said.

More on Kate Spade

  • What makes this Kate Spade bag unusual?
  • ‘Fashion can’t feel like a costume’

Quirky fun and country club

By Natalie Sherman, BBC News business reporter, New York

In the 25 years since Kate Spade’s founding, the name has become a byword for a certain preppy style.

The former fashion editor told the New York Times she was looking for function, sophistication and “some style” when she launched her line of handbags in 1993, uninspired by other purses of the era.

Her look – bright colours and clear lines – quickly gained traction, appearing on the shelves of upmarket New York department stores like Barney’s.

In 1999, Neiman Marcus took a majority stake, sealing the firm’s ascendance in the fashion world and as a brand that embodied quirky fun, without straying too far from the country club.

Read more from Natalie

Tributes pour in

Celebrities and public figures from the world of fashion and beyond paid tribute to Spade and her work.

Actress Reese Witherspoon said the designer was a “wonderful, talented woman who will be dearly missed”.

Where to get help

From Canada or US: If you’re in an emergency, please call 911

You can contact the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255

Young people in need of help can call Kids Help Phone on 1-800-668-6868

If you’re in the US, you can contact the Crisis Test Line by texting HOME to 741741

If you are in the UK, you can call the Samaritans on 116123

For support and more information on emotional distress, click here.

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