Kate Spade hinted at mental illness battle in interviews

‘It’s always, the sky is falling’: Kate Spade hinted at mental illness battle in one of her final interviews where she described being a ‘nervous person’ as her sister says she may have been planning suicide since Robin Williams’ death in 2014

  • Kate Spade spoke in February last year about how she was ‘nervous’ person 
  • Her husband Andy, by contrast, was optimistic and never fretted like she did 
  • The 55-year-old’s sister Reta Saffo said she was not surprised by her suicide
  • She told of Kate’s battle with mental health and how she tried to keep it a secret to protect her eponymous brand
  • In 2014, she said Kate became gripped by the actor Robin William’s shock suicide
  • It is not clear if the pair were friends but Kate, her sister says, was enthralled by it
  • She believes her sister may have been planning suicide as far back as then 
  • Other members of the family have since said they are ‘disgusted’ by Saffos’ claims and say Kate hadn’t spoken to her for 10 years when she died  
  • Kate, 55, was found dead by her housekeeper on Tuesday in her Manhattan home  

Kate Spade is pictured in 2015. She was found dead on Tuesday aged 55

Between bubbly and infectiously sweet final interviews given before her death, Kate Spade hinted at how she’d struggled to cope with the pressures of business while her husband Andy kept his cool.

In February 2017, as the couple promoted their new business Frances Valentine, she recalled launching her eponymous handbag line in the 1990s and how it wreaked havoc on their finances.

Kate told NPR how she always thought the business would fail whereas Andy, who had put all of his money into it, was more optimistic.

‘I also am very – a nervous person. I worry a lot. And Andy could not be more different (laughter),’ she said.

Adding that she was a ‘sleepless nights person’, she continued: ‘And always, you know, the sky is falling.’

She also recalled working with her ad exec husband in the early days of Kate Spade New York and how he had to keep her at bay when they shared a workspace because she excitedly wanted to talk to him all the time.

‘I remember people saying, “how do you work together?” And I was thrilled.

‘And Andy one day said, listen – I said, oh, wait up, wait up, I’m not ready yet. And he said, oh, no, no, let me tell you right now. If you think that every day we’re going to go to the office together, and we’re going to have lunch together…He said that’s not happening.

‘We actually worked on separate floors for that very reason because I had a tendency to go into his office.

‘And he’d be on the phone and I’d say, get off the phone I have something to tell you or ask you.

‘And that – we had to really – I had to myself find boundaries.’

Spade’s death by suicide at her Park Avenue home came as a shock to her millions of fans and customers around the world.

Kate’s sister Reta Saffo said she was gripped by actor Robin Williams’ suicide in 2014 and claimed that it triggered suicidal thoughts of her own. Williams is shown above with Kate’s brother-in-law, actor David Spade, in 2006. The designer’s family have denounced her sister’s claims, calling them ‘unsubstantiated’ 

Her family released a statement to say they were devastated by her death and asked for privacy.

However, her sister says she was prone to depression and battled bipolar disorder.  

On Tuesday, Reta Saffo told DailyMail.com that she struggled to cope with her celebrity status, which only made her suspected bipolar disorder worse.

‘My little sister Katy was a precious, precious little person. Genuine in almost every way. 


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‘Just dear – but she was surrounded by YES people, for far too long, therefore she did not receive the proper care for what I believed to be (and tried numerous times to get her help for) bipolar disorder… stemming from her immense celebrity,’ Saffo said. 

Saffo said the 55-year-old never anticipated how successful her brand would become – and how she, with it, would become a household name.

‘She never expected it – nor was she properly prepared for it,’ she told DailyMail.com.

Earlier, she told The Kansas City Star how she had ‘let go’ after trying to help her sister get help. 

She also told how she was fascinated with Robin Williams’ suicide in 2014 and said she believed this is what may have triggered Kate’s suicidal thoughts. 

She said the pair were together at a hotel in New Mexico when news of Williams death broke.   

Kate pictured far left as a young child with her family in the 1960s. Her sister Reta said she was a ‘precious’ woman who suffered what she believed was bipolar disorder 

‘She kept watching it and watching it over and over,’ Saffo, 57, said. ‘I think the plan was already in motion even as far back as then.’ 

‘I felt all the stress/pressure of her brand (KS) may have flipped the switch where she eventually became full-on manic depressive…’

The sister, who said she spoke to the newspaper after taking sedatives, said Kate would self-medicate her suspected bipolar disorder with alcohol, because she was too scared to seek professional help in case it damaged the brand.

‘Unfortunately, untreated, it finally took its toll on her,’ she told the DailyMail.com. ‘A very tragic and sad ending to the life of a very colorful and delightful being.’ 

Increasingly concerned about her mental state, Saffo claimed that she repeatedly urged her to go for treatment, including to the same treatment program where Catherine Zeta-Jones went for her successful bipolar treatment.

But she’d always ‘chickened out’ at the last moment.

Family: She is survived by her husband Andrew (above in 2017), who is the brother of actor David Spade, and her 13-year-old daughter Frances

‘We’d get sooo close to packing her bags, but — in the end, the ‘image’ of her brand (happy-go-lucky Kate Spade) was more important for her to keep up. She was definitely worried about what people would say if they found out.’


Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that mainly affects sufferers’ moods.

It is characterised as periods of euphoric highs and depressive lows.

These mood swings can be extreme and have a big impact on a patient’s quality of life.

The rate of bipolar episode cycling varies between sufferers.

Bipolar’s causes may include childhood trauma, stressful life events, genetics or brain chemistry. Treatment may include medication or therapy.

Sufferers can practice self-care by staying physically healthy, maintaining a strong support network, sticking to a daily routine and avoiding known triggers, such as late nights.

The difference between bipolar I and II is that bipolar II sufferers won’t have experienced a full manic episode.

Source: Mind 

In the end, she says, Kate’s death was heartbreaking but ‘not unexpected’. 

‘Sometimes you simply cannot SAVE people from themselves!’ Saffo, of Santa Fe, New Mexico, told The Star, adding that she would miss her ‘kind’, ‘funny’ and ‘dear’ sister and their marathon seven hour phone calls.

Saffo said after numerous attempts to try and help her sister, she ‘finally let go.’ 

The last time they talked, her sister had urged her to attend her funeral.

‘One of the last things she said to me was, ‘Reta, I know you hate funerals and don’t attend them, but for me would you PLEASE come to MINE, at least. Please!’ I know she perhaps had a plan, but she insisted she did not.’  

Saffo said that even if her sister’s death had not been a surprise, she was still devastated by the loss, and was going ‘for a good cry.’ 

After she spoke, a separate family source deemed her comments ‘disgusting’. 

They said that she had not spoken to her sister for 10 years and claimed she was in no position to make remarks about her mental wellbeing. 

‘The family is disgusted and saddened that at this time of great sorrow, Kate’s sister who has been estranged from the entire family for more than 10 years would choose to surface with unsubstantiated comments. 

‘Her statements paint a picture of someone who didn’t know her at all,’ the source told People.

Other sources said the designer killed herself after her husband asked for a divorce. 

They told TMZ that she was distraught over the end of their 30 year marriage and that she had started drinking more.  

Spade, who shot to fame with her line of eponymous purses, was found unconscious and unresponsive’ by her housekeeper on Tuesday morning.  

She is survived by her husband Andy, who is the brother of actor David Spade, and daughter Frances.

If you or anyone you know needs to talk, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)  or Lifeline Australia 13 11 14 

To contact the Samaritans, visit www.samaritans.org or call 116 123. 


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