A day after iconic fashion designer Kate Spade was found dead of an apparent suicide in her New York City apartment, a clearer picture has emerged of the struggles she was dealing with in recent days and years. Spade’s older sister, Reta Saffo, in an email to The Kansas City Star, said the 55-year-old designer had been battling mental illness for years. Her husband, in his first public remarks about Spade’s death, also said she suffered severe depression.
Saffo said Spade seemed to fixate on Robin Williams suicide in 2014 and speculated that her sister may have been planning a similar outcome as far back as then. “I will say this was not unexpected by me.” Saffo told The Kansas City Star, adding that Spade’s family grappled with how to help her, believing Spade was suffering from bi-polar disorder. She said the family even came close to having Spade receive treatment, but ultimately declined to do so. “Sometimes you simply cannot SAVE people from themselves,” she told the paper in an email.
Detectives briefing the media said the investigation is still ongoing, but that Spade’s death appears to have been suicide. “The contents of that note as well as the physical state of the apartment and the comments of the witness lend to the credibility that it is an apparent suicide,” NYPD chief of detectives Dermot Shea told reporters at a press conference, according to CBS News.
TMZ reported that it obtained the contents of the note found near Spade’s body and that it was addressed to her 13-year-old daughter, Frances Beatrix Spade. “Bea,” the note reportedly read. “I have always loved you. This is not your fault. Ask Daddy!” CBS News also reported the letter was addressed to the 13-year-old girl. It’s unclear what the “Ask Daddy” portion of the letter means, but TMZ reported that the designer and her husband and business partner, Andy Spade, had recently separated. According to TMZ, Andy had not been living in the apartment.
Andy, in an interview with The New York Times, his first public remarks on his wife’s death, said she suffered from depression and anxiety for about six years. He confirmed the two had been living apart for the last 10 months, but denied reports that there were plans to divorce.
“We were not legally separated, and never even discussed divorce. We were best friends trying to work through our problems in the best way we knew how. We were together for 35 years. We loved each other very much and simply needed a break,” he said.
All of these revelations came against the backdrop of mourning in the fashion and media worlds — and from every day people. Notes of sadness and remembrance have flooded social media as colleagues and fans paid tribute, expressed concerns about mental health issues and shared memories of buying their first Kate Spade bags in the 1990s. Spade’s famous brother-in-law David Spade said the designer always had a sharp wit and that people may not have known how funny she was. Kenneth Cole faced backlash from his original post about her death on social media, as many considered his remarks to be tone deaf. He eventually deleted the tweet, apologized and posted a new tribute.
Below, see selection of tributes posted on social media.
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.
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) June 5, 2018
Kate Spade’s tragic passing is a painful reminder that we never truly know another’s pain or the burden they carry. If you are struggling with depression and contemplating suicide, please, please seek help. https://t.co/eruSexNoGj
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) June 5, 2018
I loved @katespadeny’s beautiful and whimsical fashions. So sad. Prayers to her family.
— Savannah Guthrie (@SavannahGuthrie) June 5, 2018
Heartbroken to hear about Kate Spade. I hope she can be remembered for her legacy of creating a world of whimsy and making simple things feel special and beautiful. If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health, please know you don't have to do it alone | 1-800-273-8255
— nicolette mason (@nicolettemason) June 5, 2018
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.
— 💎 Lena Dunham 💎 (@lenadunham) June 5, 2018
The only Kate Spade bag I owned I bought from Marshall’s on clearance & I still had to put it on credit. I finally bought a kate spade wallet when I had started working more overtime. I’ve had it for years now & as someone that trades bags constantly, the wallet is my only staple pic.twitter.com/VB0bi6zQBy
— 𝚖 𝚘 𝚗 𝚒 𝚌 𝚊 🌿 (@trueromanticist) June 5, 2018
Katy at my book signing. I love this pic of her. So pretty. I dont think everyone knew how fucking funny she was… Its a rough world out there people. Try to hang on pic.twitter.com/2kRPvGvj8w
— David Spade (@DavidSpade) June 6, 2018
Last year, in what was one of her final interviews Kate and Andy Spade sat down for an interview on the AOL Build series. They discussed their lives as husband and wife — and business partners. Watch the full interview below.
If you or anyone you know needs help, reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)