Kate Spade is known for classic, creative, and elegant style. It can be argued that Kate Spade is a woman’s first wallet or handbag that is cherished and purchased throughout adulthood due to the brand's fun and cheery, yet beautiful designs. I’ll never forget how sophisticated I felt when I was gifted a bold teal wristlet from the brand; I truly felt much older than my mere age of sixteen whenever I carried my new accessory around. Since then, I’ve watched my mom conquer interviews and events while wearing a floral Kate Spade blazer or simple black heels with a touch of sparkle designed from the company as well. I have also watched my sister, Whitney, pull inspiration from many different aspects of the signature Kate Spade "look" into her graphic design work. During job interviews when Whitney was asked about her favorite brand, she always replied with "Kate Spade!"
The founder of Kate Spade, Kate Valentine, was a woman of many talents. She graduated with a degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then worked in the accessories department of Mademoiselle as senior fashion editor and head of accessories before leaving to create Kate Spade Handbags with her husband, Andy Spade. Throughout her career, she won countless awards for her unique approach to design such as “America’s New Fashion Talent in Accessories” from the council of Fashion Designers of America in 1996 and “Best Accessory Designer of the Year” from CFDA in 1998. More recently, she was inducted into the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame at Kansas University and named one of the Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company in 2017. Needless to say, Kate was an immensely successful business woman and fashion designer.
Despite her public success, there was a private, personal struggle. We know there are always two sides to one story. There’s the side that the world sees, and the side that is the reality of everyone’s life that no one will ever see. At the age of 55, Kate decided to make the tragic decision to end her life. When I initially heard about the circumstances of Kate’s death, I couldn’t believe it; I couldn’t believe how such a poised and successful woman could do something so grotesque and disturbing. The answer came quick when I remembered the death of actor Robin Williams, the death of musical genius Avicii, the death of my own dad, and countless others who have lost their battle to mental illness. No one will ever know. No one will ever be able to understand the extent of one’s own mind; no one will ever understand what battle everyone is facing on a daily basis.
There is one thing that we can do to help our loved ones that may be suffering. We can work to understand. We can work to understand that suicide is a result of a mental illness. We can work to understand that like physical diseases, mental illnesses can be treated in order to prevent suicide. In honor of Kate and the millions of other people who have died by suicide, it is imperative to join the efforts in simply understanding.
Kate’s life may have ended abruptly, but she has left behind a legacy of elegance, hard work, and design. Kate will continue to be an inspiration to countless others who are attempting to "make it" in the fashion industry and who are fighting to break the glass ceiling. Let us not remember Kate by her death, but let us remember her as the strong woman, mother, wife, daughter, and friend who fought to succeed in countless different aspects of her life and whose battle ended too soon.
by Maddie Woodrick
About the Author
Maddie Woodrick is currently a student at Lake Forest College. She is passionate about adventuring outdoors and advocating for a stigma free community on campus and beyond. Maddie is the daughter of i understand Founder, Vonnie Woodrick.