Designer Kate Spade has died in what police are calling an apparent suicide.
NBC New York cites police who say that she was found hanged in her Manhattan apartment. The circumstances of her death are still under investigation, but she reportedly left a note. She was 55.
The designer, who had changed her surname to Valentine in recent years, was born Kate Brosnahan in Kansas City. She created her successful eponymous handbag company with her soon-to-be husband, Andy Spade, in 1993, after working as an accessories editor at Mademoiselle magazine. Her line started with just six different handbags, and found enough customers that Spade opened her first New York store in 1996.
The brand quickly became known for its bright, colorful designs, and bags such as the Sam were a common sight on the arms of American women in the 1990s. At the end of the decade, Kate and Andy Spade sold a majority stake in their brand to luxury department store Neiman Marcus. In 2006, the company then known as Liz Claiborne bought the brand, and Kate and Andy Spade left the company soon after to focus on their family.
Ultimately the label bearing the Kate Spade name expanded into other areas, such as jewelry, clothing, and home products, and grew into an international business with stores around the world and more than $1 billion in annual sales. Last year, the handbag maker Coach acquired the company for $2.4 billion.
Kate and Andy, meanwhile, launched another brand called Frances Valentine in 2015, prompting Kate’s name change to Valentine.
“We at Kate Spade New York just learned of the incredibly sad news that Kate Spade has passed,” the company said in a statement. “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. Kate will be dearly missed. Our thoughts are with Andy and the entire Spade family at this time.”
The designer is survived by her husband and daughter.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be contacted at 1-800-273-8255 in the US. Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email email@example.com in the UK. Here is a list of crisis lines around the world.
This post has been updated with comment from the Kate Spade brand.