On my 18th birthday, I walked home to a green paper bag on the couch, picked it up and read the letters. “Kate Spade”, it said, printed in gold as I ran my fingers over it. My heart fluttered with excitement as I prepared to open it. It was my first time ever receiving something so fancy. I felt like I was in of those coming of age moments in a John Hughes’ movie. Or at least it felt like that.
So, when I received news that she had passed, I was extremely shocked.
Found by her housekeeper in her Manhattan apartment, Kate had committed suicide at the age of 55. Having built an empire that bridged the gap between high street and high fashion, Spade made bags that had a sense of luxury to them at an affordable price.
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Katherine Noel Brosnahen graduated with a degree in journalism from Arizona State University. Though she never expected to end up in the fashion industry, she did work her way up to becoming the fashion editor of Mademoiselle. With the encouragement of her husband, Andy Spade, she quit her job to start the eponymous label in 1993. The company began with just six styles of handbags and expanded with a line of home accessories under the brand, “Kate Spade at Home”.
Kate Spade’s designs were quirky yet sophisticated, allowing for her buyers to be playful with the way they dressed. The bright colours and eccentric prints allowed for signature silhouettes to be given an element of fun. Though during the ‘90s, when the company was just starting up, people did not see that in her bags. Spade admitted in an interview with NPR, that she considered shutting the company down at some point.
In 1999, Andy sold 56% of the label to Neiman Marcus and in 2007, the brand was bought over by Liz Clairborne. Kate then distanced herself from the label and left the brand she built completely. The label is now owned by Tapestry Inc., who also owns Coach and Stuart Weitzman. In 2016, Kate and her partners started “Frances Valentine”, an accessories label named after her daughter.
Leaving behind a legacy that will never be forgotten, Kate Spade’s death is something we should think about. Looking at a woman like Kate who built a multi-million-dollar business, many might think there isn’t much to be depressed about. We’ve heard the whole “hiding sadness behind a smile” narrative before but is there anything that’s being done to help? Depression and mental illness is something that should be talked about more. We have to tell people that there are options other than resorting to suicide. Whether it be getting help from a professional or opening up to a friend, there are ways to get help.
Yet, depression can be debilitating, and it is hard for people to get up to get help. This is why it is important to stop letting mental health take a back seat. It is something that we should start talking about in schools and educate children about these matters at an early age. We should aim to make people more aware that there is nothing wrong with getting help for the sake of their mental health.
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