Her husband, Andy Spade, had moved out of their Upper East Side home, was living at a nearby apartment and wanted a divorce, according to TMZ. The two married in 1994 and have a 13-year-old girl together.
Spade, 55, considered one of the world’s most famous designers and known for her signature sleek handbags, died Tuesday after hanging herself with a scarf in her bedroom.
She left a note telling her daughter that her death was not the teen’s fault. She also instructed her daughter to seek answers from her father.
A police source said “troubles at home” fueled Spade’s decision to take her own life.
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NEW YORK — 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 Avenue 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. Kate 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.”
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 New York Police Department 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 little 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. Spade parlayed her fame into three successful books, “Manners,” “Occasions” and “Style.”
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.
That same year, she organized what was her seventh benefit for the Brain Injury Association of Kansas and Greater Kansas City. Spade’s devotion to the cause was rooted in the death of her close childhood friend Amy Thompson, who was shot in the head in a 1986 robbery.
In all, Spade helped the organization raise more than $300,000.
“She was a hometown girl who never forgot her roots and never forgot the place where she came from and the people she loved,” said Robin Abramowitz, president of the organization.
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 Kansas City Star. “One is not better than the other. It’s my choice and that’s amazing. And even though we’re launching the new brand, she is my priority,” the designer said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Thomas Tracy, Laura Dimon and Kerry Burke contributed to this report.)
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