You know I don’t do a lot of pop culture commentary. I don’t do political commentary, either. I really only do Mary Fons commentary — and I think we can all agree that is plenty.
But this Kate Spade thing. I gotta talk about it.
If you didn’t hear about the recent, tragic end of the mega-successful accessories designer, I am impressed. The story of her untimely end is so all over the news, even I heard about it. (There’s an adage in the world of journalism: “If it bleeds, it ledes”, which means that if a story involves sex; untimely, preferably gruesome death; and/or life-destroying scandal, make it the top story, since what “bleeds” sells newspapers.)
Empire-builder Kate Spade took her own life. That bleeds.
It’s a remarkable story because suicide is violent and ruinous no matter what, no matter who commits it. But when the person who commits suicide was the founder of a worldwide brand built with vibrant color and buttoned-up whimsy; when that person’s exuberance fueled the spirited tone that launched her multi-million-dollar empire; when the person who hung herself in her home was a success by every single measure in our strange society … This should give us all pause. We should all consider what we think we know about other people. And what we think we know about ourselves.
Honestly, I was never a Kate Spade customer. I dress pretty preppy, but her polka dots were always a little too big for me, her green too Kelly; her patent leather a tad too shiny. But I liked that she had a point of view. I liked that she used the card pip for her logo. It all made sense. I’m sorry she felt she only had one option. I’m sorry when a person thinks that and I’m sorry we don’t know, as a society, how to help them better.
Remember when people in this country died of tuberculosis? Today, we say: “We could have helped them. If only we knew then what we know now. We know so much more about germ theory and prevention and medicine. All those people died back then, but no more.” We’ll talk about mental illness and addiction like that one day.
Here’s a quote from an interview the late Mrs. Spade gave in New York last year to an online channel. The host asked her what inspires her. I like how she answered, how she personifies color:
“People inspire me. [People in] the environment. I’d love to say something more intelligent, like ‘art’ or ‘museums’ or ‘writing.’ But I would honestly say people. I look at the street and I’m not sure I reflect the street as much as I interpret it … I find color optimistic and enthusiastic … and I adore it. I don’t know how else to say it.”