Handbag and fashion designer

Born: December 24, 1962;

Died: June 5, 2018

KATE Spade, who has died aged 55, was a handbag and fashion designer who made her name in the 1990s with a range of simple but bold bags that seemed to create a brand new category between over-fussy, frilly bags that were impracticable and big, bulky bags that were practical but ugly.

Spade had been working as a journalist when she branched out into designing bags and they quickly became a success. Her brand, Kate Spade New York, founded with her husband Andy Spade in 1993, grew to a network of more 300 stores around the world.

Born Katherine Noel Brosnahan in Kansas City, Missouri, Spade gained a degree in journalism from Arizona State University in 1985 before moving to New York to join Mademoiselle magazine as a fashion editor the following year. She also worked in a department store while at university which is where she met her future husband and business partner.

She launched her career as a handbag designer following her departure from the magazine, and opened her first store in 1996, having become frustrated with bags that were too fussy and over-accessorised. What she wanted, she said, was a bag that was sophisticated and stylish but functional.

Speaking recently, she said the idea to launch a handbag company had come when she and her husband were out for a meal.

"So, Andy and I were out, honestly, at a Mexican restaurant," Kate Spade said, "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?' I thought, OK, really? He regrets those words."

The brand has since become a household name with stores around the world and an expanded product line including clothing, footwear and stationery. Brand also produced cosmetics, perfume and glasses.

Her line won acclaim early on, with Spade winning the award for America's New Fashion Talent in Accessories from the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 1996.

Spade completed the sale of her share of the business in 2006 for 124 million dollars (£93 million), and left in 2007, taking time off for charity work and to look after her daughter, Frances Beatrix, born in 2005.

More recently, she was inducted into the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame at the Henry W Bloch School of Management in the US, and business magazine Fast Company named her one of its Most Creative People in Business last year.

In 2016, the designer and her husband teamed up again to launch the handbag and footwear brand Frances Valentine.

She also changed her last name to Valentine to distinguish her from her original brand, she told publication Business Of Fashion that year.

In a statement, Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue, said: "Kate Spade had an enviable gift for understanding exactly what women the world over wanted to carry."Kate Spade's older sister Reta Saffo said her designer sister had suffered debilitating mental illness for the last three or four years of her life.

Spade was found dead in her apartment in New York on Tuesday following an apparent suicide, law enforcement officials said.

She is survived by her husband Andy and daughter Frances.