NEW YORK: Designer Kate Spade, one of the biggest names in American fashion, was found dead today in New York after committing suicide, police said. She was 55.
Celebrity website TMZ said the designer -- especially known for her sleek handbags -- hanged herself in her Park Avenue apartment.
A police spokeswoman confirmed Spade committed suicide but told AFP the exact circumstances of her death were not yet clear.
Tributes to Spade poured in -- from celebrities, the fashion world and everyday women who admired her quintessential American style. The Council of Fashion Designers of America said it was "devastated" at the news.
"She was a great talent who had an immeasurable impact on American fashion and the way the world viewed American accessories," said the statement from CFDA board chairman Diane von Furstenberg and CEO Steven Kolb.
Spade -- a Missouri native who first worked as a journalist, including a stint as accessories editor at Mademoiselle magazine -- launched her eponymous fashion label in 1993 with her husband Andy and the help of outside investors.
Her cheerful use of bright colors and prints proved a hit with career women. The brand, initially sold in several New York stores, opened its flagship in the city's Soho neighborhood in 1996.
Her designs represented the New York aesthetic -- a mix of modern and classic. It was so associated with the city that she eventually added its name to her label, Kate Spade New York.
Her most famous handbag was the "Sam" -- a black mid-size rectangular bag. It was relaunched this year by the label in new prints and colors.
Beyond the label's signature handbags, Spade was also known for shoes. It later branched into ready-to-wear.
In 1999, Spade ceded a majority stake in her company to high-end department store chain Neiman Marcus for USD 34 million. NM then sold the label to textiles giant Liz Claiborne.
Spade then sold the last of her shares in the company in the mid-2000s for another USD 59 million, and was no longer directly associated with the management of the company bearing her name.
In the past few years, Spade -- born Katherine Brosnahan -- had launched a new ready-to-wear and accessories label, Frances Valentine.
In 2017, Coach bought the Kate Spade label, the last remnant of Liz Claiborne, in a deal worth USD 2.4 billion.