An Ode to Kate Spade
I heard the news about Kate Spade while I was sitting in Los Angeles traffic just trying to get to work. The street was closed due to the Jurassic World premiere and --as anyone who lives in Los Angeles can attest to-- when a road is closed, everyone in LA suddenly forgets how to drive. I had been sitting in my car for nearly fifteen minutes in the same spot and decided to scroll through Instagram in my forced free time.
A push notification from The Hollywood Reporter slid onto the top of my screen with the simple headline of Kate Spade, 55, Has Died. Not even five seconds later, E! News and Buzzfeed News all showed up on my phone with similar headlines and I honestly didn’t believe it at first. As soon as I got into the office, I read countless articles on her death and perused the tweets that poured in on Twitter and truthfully -- I was devastated.
I know that sounds a bit dramatic. I didn’t know Kate Spade personally and, when it comes to famous individuals, the general public is really only seeing what that individual wants you to see. But, Kate Spade as a brand meant so much to me. It was the first high-end brand that I owned something from -- it carried me from my last summer as a high school student to now -- a thirty year old professional (what?!) woman.
I remember graduating from high school and that summer thinking to myself how I needed a Kate Spade handbag. After all, I was going to be a university student now and I needed to look more adult. Why I was thinking like that as an eighteen-year-old with no idea what she was going to do in life, I’m not sure -- but I was determined to get a Kate Spade handbag. And so, I saved my money and purchased a black Little Minka from eBay. It was used, could have been a knockoff, and it took three weeks to arrive -- but it was my first Kate Spade bag, and I was proud.
Over the years, I’ve owned a number of Kate Spade items; in college I refused to write with anything but a Kate Spade pen for a semester, I spent a pretty penny on the best black flats I’ve ever owned, and nearly cried when I had to part ways with my Dorothy bow-front tweed coat after running into financial hardship. But, one of the main reasons I love Kate Spade as a brand so much is not the timeless designs or the accessibility -- it was because of Kate herself.
I imagined her to be such a fun woman, living in New York, eating cake for breakfast, and drinking champagne for dessert. This is the woman whose journals were bright pink, the clothing she designed were polka dotted and floral, and there was a bit of fun in every product she put out. She seemed to be the epitome of “she had a cocktail in her hand and confetti in her hair.” I wanted to live a life just like Kate Spade’s.
But that’s the thing isn’t it -- looks can be so deceiving. The news of her suicide devastated me. Not just because she was a woman that I looked up to, but because she suffered -- throughout her life and for who knows how long. She suffered so much that she felt as if the only way to end the suffering was to end her life. My rose-colored glasses shattered when I read the news; the woman whom I looked up to so much was not made of confetti, cocktails, and good times.
It was both interesting and long overdue to see social media filled with messages of support to those who may be going through the same. It was both heartwarming and heart wrenching to read so many stories from people of the moment they decided not to commit suicide, and it was heartbreaking to read the stories from family and friends of those who successfully completed suicide.
Kate Spade’s death rocked the fashion world --with good reason, she was a legend-- and it reminded us as a society that mental illness is something we overlook. There is a stigma attached to mental illness that prevents us from both speaking out and checking on people. My hope for the future is that we stop being afraid and stop judging others, and that we become a little more open, honest, and raw about mental illness. Would that have saved Kate Spade? I’m not sure, but it may save someone else.
And just because it is a good resource to have, the Suicide Prevention Hotline number in the States is 1-800-273-8255.