New York: Kate Spade, a fashion designer known for her sleek handbags, was found hanged in the bedroom of her Park Avenue apartment Tuesday in an apparent suicide, law enforcement officials said.
She was 55.
Spade's body was found by housekeeping at about 10.20am. Her husband and business partner Andy Spade was in the house at the time. It's not clear how long she had been dead. The medical examiner will perform an autopsy.
The couple's 13-year-old daughter was at school, and officials said a note was found at the scene telling her it was not her fault.
The officials were not authorised to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
"We are all devastated by today's tragedy," her family said in a statement through a spokesman. "We loved Kate dearly and will miss her terribly. We would ask that our privacy be respected as we grieve during this very difficult time."
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A crime scene truck was parked outside their building on Manhattan's Upper East Side, and barriers had been set up to keep back reporters and gawkers who were arriving to the building.
The company she founded and later sold, Kate Spade New York, now has more than 140 retail shops and outlet stores across the US and more than 175 shops internationally.
Julia Curry, a spokeswoman for the company, said that "Kate will be dearly missed" and "our thoughts are with Andy and the entire Spade family at this time".
Kate Spade was born Katherine Brosnahan and grew up in Kansas City, Missouri.
She was working as an accessories editor at Mademoiselle magazine when she launched her company with husband, Andy, in their New York apartment in 1993.
She started the company based on six shapes of bags that she thought every working woman needed. It created a smash. "I grew up in the Midwest, where you have to have it [a fashion item] because you like it, not because you're supposed to have it," she told the AP in 2004. "For our customers, fashion is in the right place in their life. It's an adornment, not an obsession."
From the original boxy handbags, she expanded into shoes, luggage and other accessories, as well as a home line, stationery, and three books. Spade won multiple awards from the Council of Fashion Designers of America and was named a "giant of design" by House Beautiful magazine.
"As an accessory, a great bag that takes the outfit somewhere else is interesting," she told the AP in a 2000 interview.
She walked away from the company in 2007, a year after it was acquired from the Neiman Marcus Group for $125 million by the company then known as Liz Claiborne Inc.
Coach, now known as Tapestry, bought the Kate Spade brand last year for $2.4 billion, seeking to broaden its appeal.
Meanwhile, Spade and her husband - brother of comedian David Spade - started a new handbag company a few years ago, Frances Valentine. And she changed her name to Katherine Noel Frances Valentine Brosnahan Spade.
Celebrities and fashion insiders' reactions
"#KateSpade, whose lively, colorful, and yes, joyous designs has died. My deepest sympathy to her family and friends, and her many fans around the world, who loved the wonderful illusions she created. I am stunned."
- Bette Midler, via Twitter.
"My grandmother gave me my first Kate Spade bag when I was in college. I still have it. Holding Kate's family, friends and loved ones in my heart."
- Chelsea Clinton, via Twitter.
"'I believed that I could, so I did.' She alone didn't change the handbag world but she was an inspiring accessory. #KateSpade #RIP"
- Designer Kenneth Cole, via Twitter.
"The CFDA is devastated to hear the news of our friend, colleague, and CFDA member Kate Spade's tragic passing. She was a great talent who had an immeasurable impact on American fashion and the way the world viewed American accessories. We want to honor her life and her major contribution to the fashion business and express our most sincere condolences to the family."
- Diane von Furstenberg, chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, in a statement.
"Kate Spade was more than a designer. She had a quirky visual language that captivated Bat Mitzvah girls and artists alike. She was also a staple of NYC who spread good will. My heart breaks for her family. Thank you, Kate, from one of the millions you made feel beautiful."
- Lena Dunham, via Twitter.
"I remember when I got my first Kate Spade bag in high school. It was my most prized possession. My current wallet, covered in bees, makes me smile every time I see it- it's by Kate Spade. My heart is just broken for her family and loved ones."
- Actress Beth Behrs, via Twitter.