On the morning of June 5, 2018, Kate Brosnahan Spade, the creator of the iconic, accessible handbag line that bridged Main Street and high-end fashion, was found dead in her Manhattan apartment. According to New York Police Department sources, she hanged herself in an apparent suicide.
We lost a huge talent, a legendary designer. Kate Spade started Kate Spade New York in 1993, and opened her first shop in the city three years later.
Here are 5 things Kate Spade taught us in life, that we can take with us forever, wherever we go.
She started with barely anything. Just one simple wish: "An unfussy handbag". She debuted with just six silhouettes, combining sleek, utilitarian shapes and colourful palettes in an entirely new way. She made the bold move to leave her coveted job as a high-profile magazine editor to launch this dream. And now, Kate Spade New York has more than 140 retail shops and outlet stores across the United States, and more than 175 stores internationally.
“Everybody remembers their first Kate Spade.” The brand became one of those accessible, yet still of high fashion, labels that everyone needed to have. For many women, a Kate Spade handbag functioned as a low-key symbol of professional achievement, and that is more than what can be said for any handbag brand.
Joe Zee, a fashion journalist who had worked with Spade, recalled her telling him of the vision to start the handbag line. “This wasn’t just something women did or just anyone really did back then in the early ‘90s,” he said. “And to quit a coveted magazine editor’s job to really be able to do that… it was so visionary and so ahead of its time."
The Kate Spade brand is premised on happiness, sunshine, bright colours, gentility, and sweetness. As the actor Mindy Kaling tweeted: “You couldn’t walk into her boutiques and not smile.” Kate Spade broke the barriers of what was trending at that moment, and brought out the colour, as she always does, in her designs. All of that was bold, but she became a visionary.
The reason so many women resonated with the brand is actually very profound. It is because Kate Spade achieved that level of accessibility for her handbags that no other handbag brand could achieve. Kate Spade was able to capture it: That a woman can work and be happy at the same time. That it is possible for a modern businesswoman to be stylish and quirky at the same time. It’s become a symbol of such empowerment, and that’s something that can’t be drafted up so easily.
Kate’s apparent suicide comes as suicide rates are increasing in number, according to a 2016 study from the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention. This speaks to how much we may not know of someone else’s burden. If you are suffering from depression, or know somebody who is, please seek help.
Images: BBC, Kate Spade NY, CNN, Elle