#HERstory: Kate Spade's Suicide: Success Doesn't Equate to Happiness
Kate Spade, designer of clothing, handbags, shoes and more, is dead at 55 from an apparent suicide. She leaves behind a daughter and husband.
Kate Spade, one of the first of a powerful wave of female American contemporary designers in the 1990s, built a brand on the appeal of clothes and accessories that made women smile. Her cheerful non-restraint struck a chord with consumers, as did her bright prints. She herself was the embodiment of her aesthetic, with her proto-1960s bouffant, nerd glasses, and kooky grin, which masked a business mind that saw the opportunities in becoming a lifestyle brand, almost before the term officially existed.
Ms. Spade and her husband-to-be, Andy, launched Kate Spade in 1993. Within a few years, she had opened a SoHo shop and was collecting industry awards, her name a shorthand for the cute, clever bags that were an instant hit with career women and, later, young girls, status symbols of a more attainable, all-American sort than a Fendi clutch or Chanel bag.
In 1999, the Spades sold the business to Neiman Marcus Group, which sold it to Liz Claiborne, Inc. in 2006. Ms. Spade became the very visible face of her brand.
Kate Spade was wildly successful. I can remember growing up and seeing her brands in department stores and thinking about how rich she must be. Too often we equate success with happiness, but they are not the same thing, nor does one lead to the other. At least not in that order.
When comedian and actor Robin Williams committed suicide, some of the same "but he was rich" whispers were mentioned. The only reasons those whispers were less prevalent is because of the stigma of depression associated with comedians. They make us laugh, to cover up their cries.
If we can believe that comedians, despite their riches and fame, are depressed, why not other professions?
Truth is, there is no profession or financial status that exempts us from suffering from mental illnesses. As I read the shock from people who can't believe Kate Spade is gone, I can't help but think to myself, when is the last time anyone checked on her? It takes 10 seconds to shoot someone a text, or give them a courtesy call. A simple, "Hey sis, just checking on you. How's life?" could save someone's.
This isn't to blame anyone for her suicide. Sometimes, when a person is determined, it is out of our hands, and there's nothing we could have done. But let this serve as a wake-up call. Don't put off checking on that friend, colleague, or family member another second. It might be the second that saves their lives.
May you find peace, Kate Spade.