Kate Spade’s sister has revealed she tried repeatedly for years to get the late accessories designer to admit herself to a bipolar disorder treatment program.
But Reta Saffo said Spade refused to seek medical help for the depression she suffered.
Ms Saffo spoke out in a series of emails to the Kansas City Star newspaper after Spade apparently took her own life at age 55 in her New York apartment on June 5.
“I will say this was not unexpected by me,” Ms Saffo said of her sister’s sudden death in what police said looked like a “tragic” suicide.
“She was always a very excitable little girl and I felt all the stress/pressure of her brand may have flipped the switch where she eventually became full-on manic depressive.”
Last month, Spade posted to Instagram a throwback photo with her daughter Frances, 13, to celebrate Mother’s Day.
The former magazine journalist and her soon-to-be husband Andy Spade co-founded Kate Spade New York in 1993, the year before they married.
The line – with fans including the Duchess of Cambridge and Taylor Swift – became famous for its colourful handbags but expanded into clothing and other accessories. The couple sold it in 2006 for about $38 million.
But behind the breezy image of her accessories and the comfort of her commercial success, Spade was privately suffering, her sister said.
In a November 2017 interview with How I Built This podcast host Guy Raz, Spade admitted she suffered from nerves and wished she “worried less”.
“I’m a very nervous person and I worry a lot,” she said, adding she tended to think “the sky was falling”.
Ms Saffo said she came “so very close” to getting her sister to agree to being admitted to the same centre where actor Catherine Zeta-Jones was treated for bipolar II disorder in 2011 and 2013.
Staff had agreed to fly to New York to pick up Spade and take her to the clinic, according to Ms Saffo.
“She was all set to go, but then chickened out,” she said, adding that maintaining the happy-go-lucky image of her brand took priority: “She was definitely worried about what people would say if they found out.”
She recalled “one of the last things” her sister said to her was to ask her to come to her funeral.
Andy Spade also lobbied his wife to seek help, Ms Saffo said. Mr Spade was at the family’s Park Avenue home in Manhattan when his wife died, police said.
Investigators confirmed the designer was found hanging from a red scarf in her bedroom about 10am. According to reports, Spade wrote a note telling the couple’s daughter Frances, 13, it wasn’t her fault.
Hours after the news broke, Spade’s actor brother-in-law David Spade said, “I still can’t believe it.”
To those who knew them, the Spades “were a hot couple”, Fern Mallis, the former head of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, told People on Tuesday.
“They seemed to be a perfect couple, very happy together. You never saw them out being contentious or not being there for one another.”
The pair reportedly met while working as salespeople in an Arizona men’s clothing shop while they were at university. When their company kicked off, they worked on separate floors of their office building because “I had to find boundaries”, Spade said.
Two years ago, she explained their different personalities at home and work: “He’s more relaxed, more of a risk taker, and I’m a little more detailed and uptight neurotic.”
Spade, whose birth name was Katherine Brosnahan, took 10 years off from her career to be a full-time mother, but later started a new line, Frances Valentine, named for her daughter.
Away from business, the pair collected art and their ideal meal was “meatloaf and mashed potatoes, paired with elegant lighting, candles, and flowers,” Spade told Bon Appetit in 2012.
Celebrities posted glowing tributes to Spade:
#KateSpade, whose lively, colorful, and yes, joyous designs has died. My deepest sympathy to her family and friends, and her many fans around the world, who loved the wonderful illusions she created. I am stunned.
— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler) June 5, 2018
Kate Spade was more than a designer. She had a quirky visual language that captivated Bat Mitzvah girls and artists alike. She was also a staple of NYC who spread good will. My heart breaks for her family. Thank you, Kate, from one of the millions you made feel beautiful.
— 💎 Lena Dunham 💎 (@lenadunham) June 5, 2018
I am heartbroken about the news of Kate Spade. I have worn her clothes many, many times. They were colorful, bold, cheerful, and encouraged women to find the twinkly person inside them. You couldn’t walk into her boutiques and not smile. Rest In Peace, Kate.
— Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) June 5, 2018
“We are all devastated by today’s tragedy,” said the Spade family in a statement. “We loved Kate dearly and will miss her terribly.”