Kate Spade’s suicide is the latest in a tragic and disturbing recurrence of high-profile fashion designers who have hanged themselves.
Since 2010, two other celebrity designers have killed themselves in a similar way: Alexander McQueen in 2010 and L’Wren Scott in 2014.
Alexander McQueen hanged himself in the wardrobe of his London apartment and left a suicide note in February 2010. Officials later ruled the cause of the 40-year-old fashion designer’s death as asphyxia and hanging. Officials didn’t disclose what the note said.
McQueen, who had dressed stars from Sarah Jessica Parker and Nicole Kidman to Rihanna and Sandra Bullock, killed himself nine days after the death of his mother. He expressed his devastation at her death on his Twitter account days before he died.
McQueen, whose real name was Lee Alexander McQueen, was born the son of a taxi driver in London’s East End. He trained in London’s Savile Row at a company that made suits for Prince Charles, and earned a reputation for controversy that earned him the titles “enfant terrible” and “the hooligan of English fashion.”
One anecdote that helped cement his bad-boy image was that he had once embroidered a suit for the Prince of Wales with a profanity sewn into the lining.
British Vogue Editor Alexandra Shulman called him a “modern-day genius.”
“His brilliant imagination knew no bounds,” she said after his death.
L’Wren Scott was found dead in her New York apartment in March 2014, hanging from a door knob with a scarf around her neck. She was 49 when she died and officials ruled the death a suicide.
The lanky former model designed clothes worn by a number of celebrities, including Madonna. She had been singer Mick Jagger’s companion for more than a decade, and created many of Jagger’s looks for the Rolling Stones’$2 50th anniversary tour.
Scott was born Laura “Luann” Bambrough and raised in Utah. The statuesque beauty – she was 6-foot-4 – was first spotted by photographer Bruce Weber at a Calvin Klein hosiery shoot, according to Vogue.
After modeling for several years, she became a stylist and eventually designed costumes for films such as the 1996 remake of “Diabolique” and 2000’s “Mercy.” She also received a credit on 2007’s “Ocean’s Thirteen” as actress Ellen Barkin’s consultant.
Kate Spade was found by her housekeeper on Tuesday, hanged by a scarf she had allegedly tied to a doorknob, according to a New York Police Department source. A suicide note was found, a second NYPD source said.
Asking for help
The suicide rate in the United States has seen sharp increases in recent years. Studies have shown that the risk of suicide declines sharply when people call the national suicide hotline: 1-800-273-TALK.
- There is also a crisis text line. For crisis support in Spanish, call 1-888-628-9454.
- The lines are staffed by a mix of paid professionals and unpaid volunteers trained in crisis and suicide intervention. The confidential environment, the 24-hour accessibility, a caller's ability to hang up at any time and the person-centered care have helped its success, advocates say.The International Association for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders Worldwide also provide contact information for crisis centers around the world.
Kate Spade and her husband, Andy, began building their iconic fashion empire in the ‘90s. Spade was a former accessories editor at a fashion magazine. In an interview with NPR’s Guy Raz last year, she described how the couple built their brand:
“It’s funny. You know, Andy and I were talking one night. And I just said — I was looking ahead and I saw the fashion directors. That would be your next jump from being senior fashion editor. And I thought, I don’t really see myself wanting that job. So Andy and I were out, honestly, at a Mexican restaurant. And he just said, what about handbags? And I said, honey, you just don’t start a handbag company. And he said, why not? How hard can it be?”
Spade started designing handbags in 1993 and opened her first store three years later.
“Debuting with just six silhouettes, she combined sleek, utilitarian shapes and colorful palettes in an entirely new way,” the website says. The parent company of the handbag giant Coach spent nearly $3 billion to buy the Kate Spade clothing and handbag label and the Stuart Weitzman shoe brand. But sales have been dropping this year: Same-store sales for Kate Spade plunged 9% in the first quarter because of a huge drop in online revenue.
CNN’s Holly Yan contributed to this report.