American fashion designer and entrepreneur Kate Valentine, formerly (and better) known as Kate Spade, was found dead in her Park Avenue apartment in New York City on Tuesday morning according to multiple reports. She was 55 years old.
Her death was apparently the result of a suicide. According to The New York Times, she hanged herself; she also left a note.
She is best known for the namesake accessories line Kate Spade, which she launched in 1993 with her husband Andy Spade. They left the company in 2007 after it was acquired by what was then Liz Claiborne Inc., and in 2016 started Frances Valentine, a line of shoes and handbags. It's currently sold online and at retailers like Nordstrom and Shopbop.
The designer is survived by her husband Andy Spade and her daughter Frances Spade.
Born Katherine Brosnahan in Kansas City, Missouri in 1962, she began her career in fashion as an assistant at Mademoiselle magazine, working up the ranks to become senior fashion editor, then starting her handbag line out of her apartment with then-boyfriend Andy, who worked in advertising. She made the first prototype out of construction paper. With their clean, square silhouettes, the bags became iconic in just a few years; the business expanded to encompass shoes, stationary, home goods, clothing, fragrances and more. They opened its first store in SoHo in 1996 — there are now over 300 worldwide. In 1999, Neiman Marcus Group purchased 56 percent of the business, acquiring the rest by 2006, only to sell it for $124 million to Liz Claiborne Inc. (which was later renamed Fifth & Pacific, and then Kate Spade & Company) that same year.
Kate, Andy and their core business partners left the company in 2007; Kate has said she spent the next several years focused on raising her daughter while Andy focused on his branding agency Partners & Spade and clothing line Sleepy Jones. In 2016, they reconvened to launch Frances Valentine. Kate Spade & Company was acquired in 2017 by Coach, Inc. (now Tapestry, Inc.) for $2.4 billion.
We'll continue updating this story as more information becomes available.
UPDATE, Tuesday, June 5, 2:00 p.m.: Kate Spade, the company, said in a statement that, "Although Kate has not been affiliated with the brand for more than a decade, she and her husband and creative partner, Andy, were the founders of our beloved brand. Kate will be dearly missed. Our thoughts are with Andy and the entire Spade family at this time."
It also shared the following statement on Instagram: "Kate Spade, the visionary founder of our brand, has passed. Our thoughts are with her family at this incredibly heartbreaking time. We honor all the beauty she brought into this world."
UPDATE, Wednesday, June 6, 5:09 p.m.: Andy Spade, Kate Spade's longtime husband and business partner, shared a statement with The New York Times that discusses their relationship, their 13-year-old daughter and Kate's struggles with mental health, while also calling into question several of the claims being made about the circumstances surrounding Kate's death.
"Kate was the most beautiful woman in the world," the statement begins. "She was the kindest person I've ever known and my best friend for 35 years. My daughter and I are devastated by her loss, and can't even begin to fathom life without her. We are deeply heartbroken and miss her already." It ends asking for privacy as the family grieves.
You can read the full statement over on The New York Times.
If you or someone you know needs help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free, 24-hour and confidential support for people in distress, and can be reached at (800) 273-8255. You can also text the HOME to 741-741 for the Crisis Text Line. For those outside of the U.S., visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for additional resources.