South O’ the Highway

Southampton Designer Kate Spade Found Dead of Apparent Suicide

Spade built a fashion empire starting with her signature handbags.

Southampton homeowner and designer Kate Spade was found dead in her New York City apartment on Tuesday, June 5, of an apparent suicide. She was 55 years old and is survived by her husband Andy Spade and 13-year-old daughter Frances Beatrix Spade (Bea).

Spade, born Katherine Noel Brosnahan, built a fashion empire starting with her signature—cute yet sophisticated and functional—handbags. She eventually expanded to a full line of clothing, accessories and a host of other branded items and home goods, including fragrances, stationary, bedding and much more.

Kate Spade, Bea and Andy Spade
Kate Spade with daughter Bea and husband Andy, Photo: ©PATRICKMCMULLAN.COM

Starting in the accessories department of Mademoiselle magazine in 1986, Spade realized she wanted to make her own handbags and left in 1991 to set out on her own. She and her soon-to-be husband Andy (married in 1994) launched their first company in 1993 and found wild success, culminating in the sale of their brand to Neiman Marcus Group—first 56% in 1999, followed by the remaining 44% in 2006.

Kate Spade and daughter Bea
Kate Spade with daughter Bea, Photo: ©PATRICKMCMULLAN.COM

After the company changed hands and names again, Coach, Inc. bought it for $2.4 billion in May of 2017. Now back under the Kate Spade name, the brand includes 175 Kate Spade New York shops internationally, with products in some 450 stores around the world.

Meanwhile, Spade took time off after the 2006 sale to raise her young daughter and focus on more philanthropic efforts. Later, in 2016, she launched a new luxury footwear and handbag brand, Frances Valentine. In an effort to fully back the new brand, Spade added both Francis and Valentine to her legal name.

According to The New York Times, a housekeeper found Spade unconscious and unresponsive after apparently hanging herself in her bedroom at the Park Avenue apartment. With her husband at the scene and her daughter’s whereabouts unknown, Spade was pronounced dead at 10:26 a.m. She left a note, but the contents has yet to be made public.

A spokesperson for Kate Spade New York told the Times, “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.”

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