Updated: Oct 6, 2018
The day that Kate Spade died, I felt pain like I had loss a dear friend I had known for years. A friend I met the day I became an adult and embraced my quirky personality. Let me tell you about our friendship.
In my early 20's I was obsessed with Coach, it wasn’t because the brand appealed to my heart it was simply because it meant status to me. It made me feel like I had arrived and I could compete with others around me. I would go to the Coach store and I spared no expense, because wasn’t that the point. It wasn’t. As beautiful as the Coach brand is, I loved it for all the wrong reasons. I wanted to portray an image of myself that others would respect it was never about the pure joy of fashion, it was to declare my own insecurities of what I no longer wanted to be viewed as.
Shortly after I stopped GAF, I found myself in Pentagon City Mall, the weekend of my bachelorette party. A few weeks before than I had purchased a cool pink and orange blazer. So I walk in the store and identical to my jacket was this beautiful pink and orange Kate Spade bag. I lost it I started screaming my friends were chanting (maybe not but this is my story) you have to get it. I’m a little dramatic so I started this monologue on how this purse was made just for me. As I moved through the store even more I begin to see the famous black and white striped pattern- same theme of my wedding which was a few weeks away. I remember thinking where have you been my whole life.
Kate Spade embodied everything that I could not verbally express about myself. It was colorful, chic, and bold, it was powerful subtlety. It was me. For years after that day, I became a huge advocate of the brand I wouldn’t purchase any other type of bag. Like so many other fans of the brand, it was my introduction to individuality and no longer caring about the opinions of others. Then June 5, 2018 happened and everything changed.
I never knew a lot about Kate Valentine Spade, I knew she was American and that alone was inspirational for me. It is rare to see American’s so successful in an industry dominated by European designers. The day she died I begin to read about her humble beginnings and rise to success. She had only spent 14 years with the Kate Spade brand and she departed after selling her final stake in the company. She took a 9 year break from fashion and spent time raising her daughter, similar to her own mother who was a homemaker. In one of the most depressing videos I watched with Kate and her husband Andy, she talked about her decision to return to the world of fashion because she felt her daughter was at an age where she no longer needed her undivided attention. The pain in her eyes and voice during this video was evidence that something was off.
It made me wonder how many people around her were blinded by the beauty in the things she created and the way she presented herself. How many times were her cries for help ignored, because people felt she was only crying wolf. Her sister, Reta Saffo, stated that shortly before her death, Kate called her and said, “I know you hate funerals and don’t attend them, but for me would you please come to mine at least.” Saffo asked her sister if she had a plan and Kate insisted she did not.
What made Kate say that June, 5, 2018 would be her last day here on earth, we will never know. What we do know is that this beautiful woman was before her time, she left a company 11 years before her death and her vision continues to be revealed in everything produced by the brand. She moved on to start something totally new but still lived in the shadow of her first success, it was something hard to break away from. We know that she suffered from anxiety and depression and the two most grueling effects of these illnesses is that you constantly worry and are haunted by your own thoughts. What we should take away from this tragic loss is that this could have been any one of us. We must learn to be kind to ourselves and seek help even when we feel we can manage. For women who are hard on themselves, it’s easy to inflict self-punishment because we blame ourselves for not being able to control the depression or anxiety. So we punish ourselves by dealing with it silently. Sometimes we cry out and feel there is no resolve because those taunting feelings are still there.
Kate and I developed this friendship over the last 3 months. It is because of my own struggles with anxiety and depression that I related to her. My own issues with being hard on myself and rejecting the inclination to be gentler when I didn’t think I was deserving of a nicer response. My own need to create when I feel that I can not fix the world around me. Most importantly, the feeling of only being important for what you give to the world and not who you are in the world. Katie, you are not alone and the greatest way to pay homage to her is to change our stigma of mental illness and self-care. We cannot continue to be last place in our own lives. So I dare you to live colorfully, and discover what it takes to live your healthiest, happiest life.
If you or someone you know needs help with suicidal thoughts please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 .