The fashion world was rocked this week by the loss of fashion designer and business icon, Kate Spade. Spade reportedly took her own life at home, a shocking turn of events for Spade’s friends and family, though the fashion icon reportedly struggled with depression and anxiety for quite some time.
Recently, we shared this thoughtful piece by Rabbi Jaclyn Cohen on dealing with the loss of a parent through Mother’s and Father’s Day (if you missed it, read it here). So many of us have been struck by this week’s poignant loss. Suicide is an almost unbearable topic to discuss as a community, but, as Cohen encourages us below, talking about mental health as a community encourages more of us to deal with it honestly and healthily.
As a team that honors great design, we mourn the loss of a woman whose incredible style, wit, personality and business savvy pioneered the way for so many designers in today’s modern lifestyle culture. Here’s Cohen…
My first Kate Spade piece was a gorgeous navy blue handbag I’d coveted for ages. It was in the original, eponymous boxy style I’d begun to see at parties and on display at Bloomingdale’s — chic, simple, stunning. My closest friend planned me a surprise fifteenth birthday party at the long-since-gone Hard Rock Cafe at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles. Her moment of glory came with the presentation of the navy Kate Spade bag. She had asked each of my friends to chip in and I was beside myself, floored by my good fortune and the generosity of my friends.
Years later, I encountered the Kate Spade brand while registering for my wedding. The handbag brand had evolved into a full chic and cheeky lifestyle brand – scotch glasses marked “his & hers”, coffee mugs decorated with crossword puzzles and other delightfully witty goods. The tagline ‘live colorfully’ resonated so deeply with me as as it did so many others.
Kate Spade managed to take something we need — a receptacle for all our stuff, a pen to write down important notes, a mug to drink our coffee — and transform it into something we wanted to use. She certainly wasn’t the first to turn everyday goods into small thrills, but
by golly she seemed to be having the most fun at it.
I was shocked this week to learn of her untimely passing by suicide. It didn’t match up with the image of her I’d held for so long — effervescent, funny, the life of the party. It broke my heart to think of her husband and daughter. And yet, it also served as a painful reminder that there are no barriers when it comes to mental illness; anyone of any background or level of success can find themselves struggling with demons so severe they are led to take their own life.
Her husband Andy Spade bravely shared with the New York Times that Kate “suffered from depression and anxiety for many years. She was actively seeking help and working closely with her doctors to treat her disease, one that takes far too many lives … It was a complete shock. And it clearly wasn’t her. There were personal demons she was battling.” When I read his statement, I thought of my own journey through depression, my lowest moments where everything felt hopeless. I thought of the many men and women I’ve counseled over the years who have shared similar sentiments. Each of us with our own successful, put-together exteriors. Each of us with our own misconceptions about what depression and anxiety look and feel like – that’s not me, that could never be me! Each of us finding our own respective paths toward treatment and healing.
Kate Spade may have projected an image of glamour, fun and whimsy, but inside she was a human being just like every single one of us. I pray that her death not be in vain and, coupled with her husband’s words, that it reminds each and every one of us the necessity to prioritize our own mental health; that it reminds each and every one of us the necessity to nurture, support and care for our loved ones, and to look beneath the often-shiny surface toward what might be lurking beneath; that it chips away at the enormous stigma surrounding mental illness; that it helps us all develop our language and comfort in talking about mental health.
May Kate’s lasting legacy be so much more than her handbags. May it be a reminder to each of us not just to live colorfully, but to live, and thrive, take care of and lean on one another. May her memory be a blessing.
Are you or is someone you care about wrestling with thoughts of suicide? Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1(800) 273-8255 – or utilize the resources available through NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness.
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