Yesterday, iconic fashion designer Kate Spade was found dead in her New York apartment by apparent suicide.
The tragedy has swept the nation as family, friends, and fans alike mourn the loss of the designer who described herself as “a little kooky, but a lot of fun.”
The chillingly ironic part?
She hung herself with the precise thing she built her empire on: an accessory.
A red scarf. An item that she had designed hundreds, if not thousands of, in her lifetime.
Kate Spade was wildly successful throughout her career, eventually selling her brand to Coach in 2017 for a whopping $2.4 billion and subsequently launching a new brand, Frances Valentine, shortly after.
Speculations as to why Spade committed suicide have flooded the Internet since the news broke Tuesday morning. Some suggest financial problems; others say marital distress, and still others claim it’s because her second brand launch was never nearly as successful as her original.
Her suicide note to her 13-year-old daughter, read in part, “This has nothing to do with you. Don’t feel guilty. Ask your dad.”
Still, though Spade may have been heading toward divorce, her sister, Reta Saffo suggests that Spade’s plans for suicide likely started long ago, as she struggled with severe mental illness.
Back in 2014, when Robin Williams committed suicide, Saffo says her sister was so interested in the news that it was alarming.
“We were freaked out/saddened,” said Saffo. “She kept watching it and watching it over and over. I think the plan was already in motion even as far back as then.”
“She was always a very excitable little girl and I felt all the stress/pressure of her brand (KS) may have flipped the switch where she eventually became full-on manic depressive,” she explained of Spade.
Saffo says that she tried many times to get her sister the help she needed, as she felt Spade required inpatient care, but unfortunately, the efforts were never successful.
“We’d get sooo close to packing her bags,” said Saffo. “But — in the end, the ‘image’ of her brand (happy-go-lucky Kate Spade) was more important for her to keep up. She was definitely worried about what people would say if they found out.”
Her family since came out with a statement scolding Saffo for releasing information that was not substantiated.
Sadly, we may never know exactly what led to Kate Spade’s decision to take her life. It could have been one or all of the above, but the scary question that her tragic death raised in my mind as I shuddered at the thought of her hanging from a red scarf is ‘How many of us worship at the altar of the accessory?‘
I know I’m guilty.
I’m not saying that’s what Spade did, as I don’t know her heart — but to some degree, I think it’s a scary trap we all fall into in varying degrees at points in our lives.
And I’m not just talking about jewelry, handbags, and scarves here…
An accessory is technically defined as “an extra thing that can be added to something else in order to make it more useful, versatile, or attractive.”
Whether it be money, fame, image, or even our spouses or children, anything can be an accessory to our lives that we idolize because it makes our lives better or allows us to feel more complete.
And it got me to thinking… was Kate Spade stripped of her idols? The things that mattered most to her. Her husband? Her financial stability? Her signature brand? Her sanity? … and did any or all of those lead her to rock bottom because she had nothing else to hang on to?