By Gretta Monahan
I’m devoting this week’s column to a woman that I and many others greatly admired — as a great mother, friend, wife and industry icon. This week Kate Spade left us, and we are heartbroken.
Kate was a giant in the women’s style industry, and a leader in modernizing how women live and work. But she wasn’t just a leader in business. By all accounts of those who knew and worked with her, she was also a champion in her relationships with everyone around her. Interns and assistants tell story after story of kindness, patience and thoughtfulness, even when there was hard work to be done. And staffers at other companies she partnered with to create and sell her eponymous line of handbags, shoes and home accessories speak of her fairness, and her commitment to keeping her luxury wares at price points within reach of everyday women.
And what she created for the women who were her dedicated customers was just as generous: Her fun but streamlined totes — the iconic pieces on which she initially built her brand — signaled to us that we could be no-nonsense but still chic at the office, carrying something that held everything we needed from early in the morning until after dinner. And when she moved on to create other types of accessories, it was still with our needs and relationships in mind. Kate was also famous for her gratitude: Her handwritten thank-you notes were so prolific, she eventually made adorably clever and uplifting Kate Spade stationery so everyone else could have in on it, too.
We may never understand what was happening in her life when she died at just 55 years old; she reportedly struggled with mental illness. And it’s terrible to think that someone who had made life so beautiful for others was hurting so much.
She gave us far more than just cute handbags; she taught us to appreciate what was special and lovely in the world, in ourselves, and to share that with everyone around us. So even with all of the gratitude she showed to others and thank-you notes she wrote to everyone throughout her life, it’s we who owe Kate the biggest thank you of all.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress at 1-800-273-8255.