Earlier this week, the fashion world and fans were shocked when news broke that Kate Spade had died at the age of 55.
Spade was found dead in her Manhattan home of an apparent suicide. After learning of her death, Spade’s sister is revealing that the designer suffered with manic depression now referred to as bipolar disorder for years, and that her death “wasn’t unexpected.”
In an interview with their hometown newspaper, the Kansas City Star, Reta Saffo said her sister refused treatment for her mental health issues out of fears it would damage her brand.
“She was always a very excitable little girl and I felt all the stress/pressure of her brand may have flipped the switch where she eventually became a full-on manic depressive,” Saffo told the newspaper.
Spade’s family was “very close” to convincing her to receive treatment, but the designer adamantly refused.
“She was all set to go — but then chickened out by morning. I even said I would go with her and be a ‘patient’ too,” Saffo said. “That seemed to make her more comfortable, and we’d get so close to packing her bags, but in the end, the ‘image’ of her brand was more important for her to keep up. She was definitely worried about what people would say if they found out.”
Spade was worried that news of her seeking help would tarnish the “happy-go-lucky” image of the Kate Spade brand. Spade had cultivated an accessible, feminine and whimsical brand that has continued to thrive long after the designer sold the company in 2006.
Saffo says there have been long-standing fears that her sister would commit suicide. She noted that in 2014, Spade showed a particular interest in the suicide of actor and comedian, Robin Williams. Saffo was worried that her plan “was already in motion even as far back as then.”
“After numerous attempts, I finally let go,” Saffo wrote in an email to the paper. “Sometimes you simply cannot SAVE people from themselves! One of the last things she said to me was, ‘Reta, I know you hate funerals. . . but for me would you PLEASE come to MINE, at least.”
In a separate statement to the Daily Mail, Saffo said that she believes her sister’s bipolar disorder was compounded by her success.
“She was surrounded by YES people, for far too long, therefore she did not receive the proper care for what I believed to be (and tried numerous times to get her help for) bipolar disorder… stemming from her immense celebrity.”
Police have confirmed Spade committed suicide by hanging herself in the bedroom of her Park Avenue home. Her husband, Andy was reportedly in the home at the time, while the couple’s 13-year-old daughter, Frances Beatrix, was at school. Spade’s body was found by her housekeeper.
On Tuesday, the Spade family issued a statement after news of the designer’s death had been confirmed.
“We are all devastated by today’s tragedy,” the statement read. “We loved Kate dearly and will miss her terribly. We would ask that our privacy be respected as we grieve during this very difficult time.”
Spade sold her brand in 2006 to focus on raising her daughter, Frances. In 2016, Spade and her husband Andy launched a new label of accessories inspired by their daughter, called Frances Valentine.