Designer Kate Spade hanged herself with a scarf in the bedroom of her Upper East Side home Tuesday — and left a note telling her daughter it wasn’t her fault, police sources said.
A housekeeper found the body of the 55-year-old fashion maven inside her Park Ave. apartment about 10:10 a.m. Tuesday, police said.
Initial reports said Spade’s husband, Andy, the brother of comedian David Spade, was home at the time — but police sources later said he wasn’t there. The couple’s 13-year-old daughter Frances was at school.
The note left by Spade, in addition to absolving her daughter of responsibility, instructed the teen to seek answers from her father. Spade was upset over “problems at home,” said a source.
Spade was a 30-year-old former magazine editor in 1993 when she launched a line of sleek handbags that grew into a $2.4 billion global empire.
“We are all devastated by today’s tragedy,” her family said in a statement. “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.”
Reached Tuesday afternoon, Spade’s sister Eve Brosnahan struggled to speak.
“It’s very difficult,” a crying Brosnahan told the Daily News.
“I can’t right now. I just can’t.”
Her other sister Reta Saffo said in an email to the Daily News that she was not surprised.
“I will say this was not unexpected by me. I’d flown out to Napa and NYC several times in the past 3-4 years to help her to get the treatment she needed (inpatient hospitalization). She was always a very excitable little girl and I felt all the stress/pressure of her brand (KS) may have flipped the switch where she eventually became full-on manic depressive,” Saffo wrote.
Saffo claims she had tried to get mental health treatment for Spade.
“She was all set to go — but then chickened out by morning. We’d get sooo close to packing her bags, but — in the end, the ‘image’ of her brand (happy-go-lucky Kate Spade) was more important for her to keep up. She was definitely worried about what people would say if they found out,” Saffo said.
Spade’s shocking death left some of her devoted customers sobbing in the streets.
“Every girl in the world knows of Kate Spade,” said Atlanta tourist Carter Boughner, 42, tears rolling down her face after she learned the news while walking by Spade’s apartment.
“Why would (she) do that?”
Shelley Bitt, who used to work retail for Kate Spade New York in California before moving to the Upper East Side, said she saw the famed designer walking down the street just a few days ago.
“It’s so sad,” said Bitt, 21. “I was just a really big fan of her brand. . . When I moved here, I definitely knew her face.”
Spade’s official cause of death was pending the outcome of an autopsy.
But police officials said the evidence left little doubt that Spade took her own life.
“There was a note left and the contents of the note, physical state of the apartment and statement of the witnesses lead us to believe it was an apparent suicide,” said NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea.
Kate Spade New York released a statement lamenting the “incredibly sad news.”
“Although 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,” it said. “Kate will be dearly missed.”
Born Katherine Brosnahan in Kansas City, Mo., in December 1962, Spade attended an all-girls Catholic high school. She graduated from Arizona State University with a journalism degree in 1985.
Eight years later, after a stint as accessories editor at Mademoiselle magazine, she launched Kate Spade with her soon-to-be husband, Andy Spade.
The company, in those early days, showed few signs of the global success story it would become.
“We were still not making any money,” Spade recalled of the early years during a 2016 interview with NPR’s “How I Built This” podcast.
“Nobody was making a salary,” she added. “I just remember thinking, ‘I think we need to shut it down.’”
But her handbags, with their modern look and bright pops of color, went on to attract legions of loyal buyers. Soon Kate Spade bags were lining the shelves at Saks Fifth Avenue and Barneys.
In 1996, the Council of Fashion Designers of America honored Spade, who became a household name synonymous with affordable luxury.
She sold the company for $125 million in 2006 and walked away a year later to focus on the couple’s then-2-year-old-daughter. Coach snapped up the brand for $2.4 billion in 2017.
Spade returned to the fashion world in 2016 when she launched the Frances Valentine line of luxury footwear and handbags.
In a 2016 interview, Spade said the decision to start the new brand was in part motivated by a desire to set an example for her daughter. “I think what’s nice is that she gets to see both the stay-at-home mom and the working mom, and know there is an option,” Spade told the Star.
With Janon Fisher, Laura Dimon and Kerry Burke