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Senior Managing Director | The Opes Group LLC

Honoring Kate Spade

As a society, we love to focus on the positives and highlights of life, as we should. In the world of entrepreneurship, we love to shower those who’ve achieved great success with even greater praise — as we should. And on my websites, I love to highlight these successes and promote feel good stories. Unfortunately, not every story is a happy one. On June 5, 2018, Kate Spade, world-renowned fashion designer and entrepreneur, was found dead in her New York City apartment from an apparent suicide.

This was a tragic loss to the fashion industry, and the world in general. In this blog, I would simply like to highlight some of her career highlights and honor her life and legacy.

Born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1962, Katherine Noel Brosnahan was a woman of humble beginnings. After studying journalism at Arizona State University, she landed a job at Mademoiselle magazine as an editor of the accessories segment. Kate excelled in her position, but after working as an editor for the magazine for seven years, she quickly found herself wanting more. She became bored with the then-popular brand name accessories.

“I was looking for something that could be less serious. More personal,” said Spade in an interview with The Boston Globe in 1999. Kate noticed that fashion designers were only offering accessories (primarily handbags) that were either functional or fashionable — not both. She noticed that the market was missing something, so she got together with her then-boyfriend Andy Spade, an entrepreneur himself, and created Kate Spade New York.

After departing Mademoiselle, Kate utilized the entirety of her 401(k) ($6,000) to purchase fabric and create samples. Instead of using the various industry connections she already had, she decided to go her own way and look up manufacturers in the phone book. With an initial investment of $35,000, Kate created enough samples to attend a fashion trade show in New York, where her designs were noticed by Barneys New York and Charivari, who both ordered $500-worth of bags. And only three months later, world-renowned fashion magazine Vogue featured Spade’s bags in their accessories column. The bags were featured alongside already-established brands like Chanel, Gucci and Prada. After earning enough buzz and having her creations sold in high-profile shops (Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, etc.), Kate Spade was able to set up her very own, stand-alone shops to sell her company’s products.

Although both Kate and Andy left the company in 2007, she’d already made her mark in the fashion world. In 2017, Coach purchased Kate Spade New York for $2.4 billion, and the company brings in millions of dollars in revenue.

Although Kate Spade is no longer with us, her memory will live on and inspire hundreds of thousands of female entrepreneurs and businesswomen for years to come. Her passing also brings light to an important issue: mental health. Over 40 million Americans confront mental health conditions every day. It is a long and arduous battle, but there are tools and resources for those seeking help. There are multiple phone services that assist those dealing with mental health issues, such as the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255) or the Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-9255, then press 1). Additionally, the SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline (1-877-726-4727) provides local facilities and organizations that can assist with any mental health issues or questions you may have.

Additionally, the following sources are well-established, national organizations that specialize in providing top-notch services for mental health issues: Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, Mental Health America, National Alliance on Mental Health.
If you feel as though you are struggling with mental health issues, please seek help. The simple act of having a coffee with a family member or friend may remind you of how much you mean to other people and how much they enjoy having you in their lives. If you don’t want to disclose your personal struggles to those most close to you then the resources above may help. On the other hand, you may be fine but you are so preoccupied with your own life that you have not made time to help a struggling friend. Please so. I leave you with thoughts from a song by Diana Ross….”Reach out and touch, somebody’s hand, make this world a better place…if you can’.