NEW YORK – Kate Spade, a fashion designer known for her sleek handbags, was found hanged in the bedroom of her Park Avenue apartment Tuesday in an apparent suicide, law enforcement officials said.
The 55-year-old was found by housekeeping at about 10:20 a.m. Her husband and business partner Andy Spade was in the house at the time. It’s not clear how long she had been dead and the medical examiner will perform an autopsy.
The couple’s 13-year-old daughter was at school at the time and officials said a note was found at the scene telling her it was not her fault. The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
A crime scene truck was parked outside their building on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and barriers had been set up to keep back reporters and gawkers who were arriving to the building.
The company she founded, Kate Spade New York, now has over 140 retail shops and outlet stores across the U.S. and more than 175 shops internationally.
Julia Curry, a spokeswoman for the company, said that “Kate will be dearly missed” and “our thoughts are with Andy and the entire Spade family at this time.”
Spade, who was an accessories editor at Mademoiselle magazine, launched her company with husband Andy in their apartment in 1993. She started the company based on six shapes of bags that she thought every working woman needed. It created a smash.
“I grew up in the Midwest, where you have to have it (a fashion item) because you like it, not because you’re supposed to have it,” the Kansas City, Missouri, native told The Associated Press in 2004. “For our customers, fashion is in the right place in their life. It’s an adornment, not an obsession.”
From the original boxy handbags, she expanded into shoes, luggage and other accessories, as well as a home line, stationery, and three books. Spade won multiple awards from the Council of Fashion Designers of America and was named a “giant of design” by House Beautiful magazine.
“As an accessory, a great bag that takes the outfit somewhere else is interesting,” she told the AP in a 2000 interview.
She walked away from the company in 2007, a year after it was acquired from the Neiman Marcus Group for $125 million by the company then known as Liz Claiborne Inc.
Coach, now known as Tapestry, bought the Kate Spade brand last year for $2.4 billion, seeking to broaden its appeal.
Meanwhile, Spade and her husband started a new handbag company a few years ago, Frances Valentine. And she changed her name to Katherine Noel Frances Valentine Brosnahan Spade.