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Designer Kate Spade Found Dead in Apparent Suicide at 55

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Designer Kate Spade was found dead of an apparent suicide Tuesday morning at 850 Park Avenue, according to the New York Police Department.

A police official said that Spade was found in her bedroom and was “unconscious and unresponsive.” It appears she had hanged herself.

Spade died at 55 and is survived by her husband Andy and daughter, Frances, who is 13.

Spade and her husband Andy, who met as teenagers in Kansas, founded their first brand Kate Spade in 1993 with Elyce Arons. Kate Spade was always a relatively accessible brand, built on Spade and Arons’ Midwestern values. It made its name with nylon handbags that were soon spotted all over the streets of major cities worldwide, as well as brightly colored dresses and separates that had a cheerful, optimistic air — much like that which Spade herself projected.

All of them walked away from that company entirely in 2007, a year after it was acquired from the Neiman Marcus Group for $125 million by the group then known as Liz Claiborne Inc., which subsequently sold off all its other operations to transform itself into the current publicly listed Kate Spade & Co.

The Spades and Arons then founded Frances Valentine in 2015. Their fourth partner in Frances Valentine was Paola Venturi, who joined the company Kate Spade in 2001 as design director.

When Kate Spade started in the early Nineties, there wasn’t nearly as much competition. “When we came out, there were only like five accessories houses — Prada, Coach was the biggest American,” said Andy. We were the first in America to work with nylon. We got lucky,” Andy Spade told WWD in 2015 of the original Kate Spade spare, nylon styles. Now, the market is full. “A woman doesn’t need shoes; she needs to fall in love with shoes,” said Venturi. “We have to make her fall in love.”

Kate and Arons spent eight years focusing on their families, while Venturi went to work for Prada and Andy cofounded Partners & Spade design studio, the art space Half Gallery, and the pajama brand Sleepy Jones, while also working on a number of film and photography projects.

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