NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Designer Kate Spade’s sister says the designer, known for her playful creations, had a history of mental illness.
Spade’s body was found by her housekeeper Tuesday morning at her home at Park Avenue and 77th Street on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Spade, 55, had apparently hanged herself with a scarf.
Investigators say she left behind a note addressed to her 13-year-old daughter, indicating that she was dealing with financial and marital issues. Her daughter was not home at the time police believe Spade took her own life.
Her sister Reta Saffo told CBS2 in a statement Spade had been suffering from mental health issues as well:
My little sister Katy was a precious little person. Precious in every aspect, just dear– but she was surrounded by YES people, for far too long, therefore she did not receive the proper care for what I believed to be (and tried numerous times to get her help for) Bipolar disorder… stemming from her immense celebrity. She never expected it– nor was she properly prepared for it. Unfortunately, untreated, it finally took its toll on her.
One of her doormen told CBS2 “She was such a beautiful person and so kind.”
Born Kate Brosnahan, she achieved fame in the fashion world under the name Kate Spade.
Spade catapulted to success after she and her husband launched a handbag line bearing her signature label in the 1990s.
Fans and colleagues have been stopping by her home to pay their respects.
“Even though I’ve never met her, she touched my life,” said Kate Spade fan Karen Geraghty. “I pray for the family and for her soul.”
“She helped pave the way for more and more women to the enter the industry, not only as a designer but as the head of her own company. and I think again pushing the idea of American companies,” said Patricia Mears of the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Spade and her husband sold the Kate Spade fashion line just over a decade ago. Later, they started up a new luxury handbag and footwear line.
Spade’s family says they are devastated by this loss and are asking for privacy at this time.
“My grandmother gave me my first Kate Spade bag when I was in college,” tweeted Chelsea Clinton. “I still have it. Holding Kate’s family, friends and loved ones in my heart.”
Spade’s brother-in-law, actor David Spade, posted his reaction on Instagram.
“Fuzzy picture but I love it. Kate and I during Christmas family photos. We had so much fun that day. She was so sharp and quick on her feet. She could make me laugh so hard. I still can’t believe it,” David Spade wrote. “It’s a rough world out there people, try to hang on.”
Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue, issued a statement:
Kate Spade had an enviable gift for understanding exactly what women the world over wanted to carry. She launched her label at a time when everyone thought that the definition of a handbag was strictly European, all decades-old serious status and wealth. Then along came this thoroughly American young woman who changed everything. There was a moment when you couldn’t walk a block in New York without seeing one of her bags, which were just like her; colorful and unpretentious. Kate designed with great charm and humor, and built a global empire that reflected exactly who she was and how she lived. Long before we talked about ‘authenticity’, she defined it.
Spade’s husband, Andy, told the New York Times in a statement on Wednesday that his wife battled depression and anxiety for many years.
“She was actively seeking help and working closely with her doctors to treat her disease, one that takes far too many lives,” the statement said in part. “We were in touch with her the night before and she sounded happy. There was no indication and no warning that she would do this. It was a complete shock.”
Editor’s note: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255. You can also learn more and chat with them online by clicking here.