Thu, Jun 07, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Kate Spade remembered after apparent suicide


Bright, vibrant, colorful and, most essentially, fun.

The same words used so often to describe Kate Spade’s enormously popular handbags — “It” bags that were both aspirational and affordable — were an apt description of the woman herself, said many in the fashion world.

That only contributed to the sense of shock and loss in the industry upon hearing the news on Tuesday that Spade had apparently taken her own life at 55.

“She was always just as happy and delightful as her collection was,” said Fern Mallis, industry consultant and former director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America during Spade’s rise to success in the 1990s. “She was every bit the representation of that brand, and the fun of it all.”

Indeed, Spade had said it herself during an interview with Glamour magazine in 2002: “I hope that people remember me not just as a good businesswoman, but as a great friend — and a heck of a lot of fun.”

Spade was found hanged in the bedroom of her Park Avenue apartment in an apparent suicide, law enforcement officials said.

Spade liked to say that she was not obsessed with fashion, or interested in trends.

“I grew up in the Midwest, where you have to have [a fashion item] because you like it, not because you’re supposed to have it,” she told The Associated Press in 2004. “It’s an adornment, not an obsession.”

A Kate Spade bag was an adornment that was, crucially, affordable, unlike other iterations of “It” bags whose status seemed to hinge on the price tag.

“It was a real shift,” Mallis said. “Everybody had Kate Spade bags. You could afford them and happily buy more than one. They were affordable and terrific and fabulous.”

Having a Spade bag “was a sign that you were in the know,” said Eric Wilson, fashion news director at InStyle. “You associated yourself with this fun, cool, with-it, hip brand that wasn’t snobbish or so exclusive that it felt like a European luxury brand.”

The bags seemed to effortlessly appeal to a variety of women.

“She had a quirky visual language that captivated Bat Mitzvah girls and artists alike,” actress Lena Dunham wrote on Twitter.

Born Katherine Brosnahan, Spade grew up in Kansas City, Missouri.

She was working as an accessories editor at Mademoiselle magazine when she launched her company with her husband, Andy, in their New York City apartment in 1993, based on six shapes of bags she thought every working woman needed.

She called them her “stepping stones” — and said years later that they were still her favorites.

As her brand expanded, “the fun, colorful, bright designs she created added an element of cheerfulness others have tried to emulate,” said Deidra Arrington, associate professor of fashion design and merchandising at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“Most women remember their first Kate Spade bag. I still have mine,” she said.

Indeed, on social media, many women were recalling their first Spade bag.

“My grandmother gave me my first Kate Spade bag when I was in college. I still have it,” Chelsea Clinton wrote on Twitter.

“I will never forget the first Kate Spade bag I got for Christmas in college,” Jenna Bush Hager wrote.

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