Kate Spade's Lasting Legacy: Inside the Designer's Trailblazing Career and Private Pain After the tragic death of Kate Spade on June 5, her family, friends and admirers are honoring her legacy by trying to understand the pain that led to the iconic designer's suicide at the age of 55.
"We knew Kate had her problems and demons," a friend tells PEOPLE in this week's cover story. "But nobody would have expected me to do this."
The fashion industry veterinarian, who sold her eponymous company in 2006, and then returned to the main design two years ago with her accessory line Frances Valentine, Katherine Brosnahan was born on December 24, 1962, in Kansas City, Missouri. After graduating from Arizona State University, he moved to N.Y.C. in 1986 to work as a temporary assistant in a photo shoot of the Mademoiselle magazine.
She got up from the masthead, eventually got the title of accessory editor, but was not content to present the designs of the others, Kate left the magazine in 1993 to launch Kate Spade New York from home with her then boyfriend Andy Spade, combining her first name with her last year before getting married. The initial launch of its square handbags (with labels sewn on the outside, a last-minute decision that caught the attention of buyers) revolutionized the accessory industry in the 1990s.
Kate's handbags "helped shape the aesthetic moment of the time: simple but meaningful and functional," says CFDA president Steven Kolb, who adds that the designer "changed the way women and the world saw fashion American through its playful lens in design ".
Adds former CFDA executive director Fern Mallis, "She was as adorable as her accessories, she and Andy were very much in the front line of the fashion universe."