How Kate Spade designs impacted admirers: 'Color, joy and friendship'

Social media users share photos of the designer's handbags in her memory, with many calling their buy a symbol of career accomplishment or adulthood.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Expertise Breaking news, entertainment, lifestyle, travel, food, shopping and deals, product reviews, money and finance, video games, pets, history, books, technology history, and generational studies Credentials
  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
2 min read

News of designer Kate Spade's death came as a shock to many on Tuesday. Spade, 55, left behind her husband and a 13-year-old daughter.

It didn't take long before the details of Spade's death by suicide were readily available online, including seemingly private details such as the contents of a note left behind, and the sad specifics of her death.

But many of those who adored Spade's handbags and other products chose not to dwell on the gossip, and instead, memorialized her in a touching way on social media. Twitter users are sharing images of beloved items they owned from the designer's various product lines -- especially the handbags Spade was known for, but shoes, dresses and other pieces as well.

The headline on the New York Times' obituary summed it up well, saying Spade's handbags "carried women into adulthood." The verb "carried" paired eloquently with the thought of women carrying Kate Spade bags, and it expressed a social reality about how the purses fit into many buyers' lives. Some shared how they aspired to someday afford a Spade bag, and made it a priority purchase when they cashed their first adult paycheck.

Dozens of corresponding social posts from customers echoed those thoughts independently. Many shared not just a photo, but also a little mini-history lesson on what Spade and her creations meant to them.

Some of those mourning Spade, like Ivanka Trump and Chelsea Clinton, are famous in their own right. "I am heartbroken about the news of Kate Spade," actor and comedian Mindy Kaling wrote. "I have worn her clothes many, many times. They were colorful, bold, cheerful, and encouraged women to find the twinkly person inside them." 

Many shared photos of their Kate Spade handbags, in all sizes and colors. "I wanted a bag so badly that my parents threw me a Kate Spade themed 13th birthday party," young actress Peyton Kennedy wrote. 

Some spoke of giving Spade's purses as presents, or of the inspiring quotes that come with them.

And many told touching stories of what aspiring to buy a Kate Spade bag meant to them. "I was a poor kid at a rich school," one Twitter user wrote. "That bag was like armor and camouflage and a hall pass that diminished the pain of being on the wrong side of my high school's economic divide."

And because of the method of her death, many were reminded that struggles with mental-health issues do not skip over the wealthy and famous.

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