Fashion designer Kate Spade took her own life June 5, hanging herself in her Manhattan apartment. She left behind her husband Andy and a 13-year-old daughter, Frances Beatrix.
Spade’s suicide is just one of many by creative, beloved fashion designers in recent years. Eight years ago, Alexander McQueen, a favorite of many celebrities, took his own life. In 2014, L’Wren Scott was found dead hanging by a scarf from a doorknob in her New York City apartment, eerily similar to Spade’s own suicide.
Spade started her brand of boxy, colorful handbags with her husband Andy Spade (brother of comedian David Spade) and friend Elyce Arons. In the early ’90s, she wanted to see something functional and practical and often found the styles of the time too gaudy. Later, Spade and her husband sold their shares of the company to Neiman Marcus Group.
Since its inception, the functionality and luxurious yet affordable look has become the epitome of the “first handbag” for many. Former first daughters Chelsea Clinton and Jenna Bush Hager both tweeted about their first Kate Spade handbags, given as gifts in college.
Walking into the Kate Spade store on M Street (and all the others around the world), it is hard not to smile. The bright and whimsical, often preppy designs fit well into the Georgetown aesthetic. The Kate Spade shop felt right at home in the neighborhood and many women walking down the brick-lined sidewalks were carrying or wearing Spade’s designs.
Local boutique owners shared their thoughts on Spade and the legacy she left behind. “Kate Spade made the American Dream happen,” said Krista Johnson, owner of Ella Rue on P Street. “She built a fashion empire through true grit, creating fashion with feminine beauty.”
When the world sees polka dots, bows, hot pink and sequins, think of Kate and the gift she was to this world, Johnson added.
Krista’s sister and business partner Alexa Johnson said, “Kate Spade helped define a new category of attainable luxury that opened the door for other brands in the marketplace. Spade inspired a generation of female entrepreneurs — she knew what women were looking for exactly at the moment with embodying American style.”
Faith Ezrailson, manager and owner of Reddz Trading on Wisconsin Avenue said: “Kate Spade was an iconic fashion legend that inspired many women to be their best. Her clothing and handbags always made women feel beautiful with their bold patterns and classic silhouettes. I couldn’t walk into her store without smiling. She will be missed by many.”
Deb Waterman Johns, founder of Scout Bags on 33rd Street, said: “Her ladylike charm and unabashed use of color set the stage for her iconic brand. When her black structured handbags arrived on the fashion scene, she offered young working women a bag option that reinforced their femininity and strength. Her refreshing spirit will be missed.”
Sehvar Bor, owner of Pretty Chic on Wisconsin Avenue, said: “I am very saddened with the news of Kate Spade. She was my favorite designer and most selling designer at the store.” Bor sent a photo attached to her email of her favorite bag that a customer is holding at Bor’s Georgetown home. It reads “Married Adventure” on the cover.