Police confirmed the 55-year-old Spade had been found unresponsive at her home on the city’s Park Avenue. Reports said she had been found by her housekeeper, who then alerted officers. A note was said to have been recovered from the scene.
“Upon arrival, officers discovered a 55-year-old female unconscious and unresponsive,” the New York Police Department said in a statement, adding she was pronounced dead at 10.26am. “Emergency medical services responded and pronounced the aided female deceased. The Medical Examiner will determine the cause of death and the investigation is ongoing.”
Spade, whose original company was bought last year by Coach for $2.4bn, created a fashion sensation in the 1990s, with a line of iconic handbags that became almost ubiquitous. At one point, she had more than 140 retail shops in the US and 175 around the world.
Spade, who was born Katherine Brosnahan in Kansas City in 1962, was named America's New Fashion Talent in Accessories in the Council of Fashion Designers of America's awards in 1996. She studied at Arizona State University.
I was in college when I got my first Kate Spade purse and I swear to god it made me feel like Audrey Hepburn.
— Kamon Naddaf (@kdn13) June 5, 2018
Fans and members of the fashion industry were quick to post tributes on social media as news of her death on Tuesday spread.
PREMME co-founder Nicolette Mason said: “Heartbroken to hear about Kate Spade. I hope she can be remembered for her legacy of creating a world of whimsy and making simple things feel special and beautiful. If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health, please know you don't have to do it alone - 1-800-273-8255.”
New York Times Styles reporter Matthew Schneier tweeted that finding out about Spade was “awful news”.
Fans of the brand began posting pictures of their favourite handbags. Chelsea Clinton wrote: “My grandmother gave me my first Kate Spade bag when I was in college. I still have it.”
The Times said Spade’s husband was at the scene. A police spokesman did not know the whereabouts of her 13-year-old daughter. Spade was said to be worth $200m.
Spade met her husband, Andy Spade, in 1986 while she was working at the fashion magazine Mademoiselle in Manhattan. Together, they were featured in the magazine as part of a photo story on couples in love.
RIP Kate Spade. Awful news.
— Matthew Schneier (@MatthewSchneier) June 5, 2018
While at the magazine, Spade identified what she believed was a gap in the market for a stylish but affordable handbags.
In 1999, she told the Boston Globe the image she was seeking was something that was both “timeless” and “more personal, less serious”.
She said she wanted her bags to “assume the personality of the wearer, not the reverse”.
A spokeswoman for Kate Spade New York said in a statement that “while 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”.
It added: “Kate will be dearly missed. Our thoughts are with Andy and the entire Spade family at this time.”
After selling their original company in 2006, the Spades launched a new fashion brand called Frances Valentine, which sells footwear and accessories.
Spade told reporters she was so committed to the new brand she felt ready to change her surname to Valentine.
Tapestry Inc, the handbag company formerly known as Coach, eventually bought the Kate Spade brand in May 2017.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255 and the Crisis Text Line is 741741.