Kate Spade: Fashion designer found dead in New York home

Fashion designer Kate Spade has been found dead in her New York apartment.

Police are investigating her death as an apparent suicide. The world of fashion and design has been paying tribute to her work.

Spade – who once edited fashion magazine Mademoiselle – was well known as a designer of clothes, shoes, and jewellery, but was best known for her accessory line.

She co-founded Kate Spade Handbags in 1993 with husband Andy Spade.

What were the circumstances of her death?

The designer was found by her housekeeper who had arrived at the Park Avenue apartment in Manhattan to find her "unresponsive", a law enforcement official said.

The New York Police Department confirmed the 55-year-old’s death under her birth name, Katherine Noel Brosnahan.

She left behind a note, police said. They declined to discuss its contents.

Press gather outside the apartment of Kate Spade on 5 June 2018
Reporters gathered outside Kate Spade’s apartment as news of her death emerged

The Spade family released a statement asking for privacy as they came to terms with her death.

"We are all devastated by today’s tragedy," it said.

"We loved Kate dearly and will miss her terribly. We would ask that our privacy be respected as we grieve during this very difficult time."

How did she become a household name?

Kate Spade Handbags – whose stated aim was to design the perfect handbag – opened its first store in New York in 1996, and now has more than 300 branches worldwide.

It is recognisable for its distinctive logo which features the spades playing card symbol, in reference to the designer’s surname.

The company’s bright and colourful patterned designs became a trademark of its products.

Kate Spade logo on a store in New York

Kate Spade sold her namesake brand in 2007. It was bought last year by New York rival designer Coach in a deal worth $2.4bn (£1.8bn).

She and her husband then set up another design venture, Frances Valentine, named after their daughter.

Kate Spade legally changed her name to Kate Valentine (Valentine was her grandfather’s middle name) in 2016 to "separate the two worlds".

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Quirky fun and country club

By Natalie Sherman, BBC News business reporter, New York

In the 25 years since Kate Spade’s founding, the name has become a byword for a certain preppy style.

The former fashion editor told the New York Times she was looking for function, sophistication and "some style" when she launched her line of handbags in 1993, uninspired by other purses of the era.

Her look – bright colours and clear lines – quickly gained traction, appearing on the shelves of upmarket New York department stores like Barney’s.

In 1999, Neiman Marcus took a majority stake, sealing the firm’s ascendance in the fashion world and as a brand that embodied quirky fun, without straying too far from the country club.

Read more from Natalie

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What has been the reaction?

News of Kate Spade’s death has led to many tributes to her work.

Skip Twitter post by @ChelseaClinton

Chelsea Clinton

My grandmother gave me my first Kate Spade bag when I was in college. I still have it. Holding Kate’s family, friends and loved ones in my heart.

5:45 PM – Jun 5, 2018

End of Twitter post by @ChelseaClinton

💎 Lena Dunham 💎

Kate Spade was more than a designer. She had a quirky visual language that captivated Bat Mitzvah girls and artists alike. She was also a staple of NYC who spread good will. My heart breaks for her family. Thank you, Kate, from one of the millions you made feel beautiful.

6:38 PM – Jun 5, 2018

End of Twitter post by @lenadunham

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Jenna Bush Hager

I will never forget the first Kate Spade bag I got for Christmas in college. She was a trailblazer. Her life and death are a reminder that pain doesn’t discriminate. Sending love to her family.

7:14 PM – Jun 5, 2018

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End of Twitter post by @JennaBushHager

Designer Diane von Furstenberg and Steven Kolb, executive officer of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, released a joint statement expressing their condolences.

"The CFDA is devastated to hear the news of our friend, colleague and CFDA member Kate Spade’s tragic passing.

"She was a great talent who had an immeasurable impact on American fashion and the way the world viewed American accessories."

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