An iconic inspiration: Designer Kate Spade remembered for impact on fashion industry & KC

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Designer Kate Spade was found dead Tuesday, but the Kansas City native's name and talent will live on in the metro and around the world.

Her name is practically synonymous with designer handbags. Spade launched her fashion line in 1993, and it soared in popularity over the years.

A KC native, Spade graduated from St. Teresa's Academy. On Tuesday, St. Teresa's released a statement saying she was a valued member of their sisterhood. Spade then studied at KU before transferring to Arizona State.

Designer Kate Spade attends OPEN from American Express' "Making a Name for Yourself" at Nokia Theater July 27, 2006 in New York City. (Photo by Matthew Peyton/Getty Images For American Express)

A housekeeper found her dead around 10 a.m. Tuesday inside her New York City apartment on Park Avenue. She was just 55. Law enforcement officials said it appears Spade took her own life.

Since the beginning, Hall's Kansas City sold her purses and accessories.

"We were one of the first retailers to sell the Kate Spade collection, and Kate made many personal appearances at Hall's throughout the years," Halls CEO and President Kelly Cole said.

Cole was with Spade in 2016 when she launched her new line, "Frances Valentine," named after her daughter who was born in 2005.

"She really started a collection years ago that attracted a new, young customer, and I've seen those ladies grow up with her brand," he said.

One of the many people who grew up inspired by Kate Spade is Kelsie O'Brien, a young fashion designer from the metro.

"She was definitely a major force, being a woman, making her way especially from KC, making her mark on the fashion industry in the way that she did," O'Brien said.

O'Brien had the chance to visit the Frances Valentine showroom this fall and called it a surreal experience.

As the fashion world and beyond mourns Spade's death, people remember her for all her contributions throughout the metro. She was heavily involved with the Brain Injury Association of Kansas and Greater Kansas City.

"Kate got involved in the organization because her dear friend Amy Thompson suffered a brain injury from an accident that she had," said Robin Abramowitz, executive director of the Brain Injury Association of Kansas and Greater Kansas City.

Abramowitz said Spade was always warm and generous and worked with them for almost 20 years.

"There were seven events, and over the course of the seven events, she helped raise over $300,000 for the organization," she said.

A kind spirit, a talented creative designer and a philanthropist -- that's always how people who admired her will remember Kate Spade.

"She was one of those iconic inspirations. It's sad that she's gone," O'Brien said.


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