“I will say this was not unexpected by me,” Reta Saffo wrote in an email to their hometown newspaper. She added, "Sometimes you simply cannot SAVE people from themselves!"
Police confirmed that Spade, 55, was found dead of an apparent suicide by hanging in her New York apartment Tuesday morning.
Saffo told The Star that Spade “was always a very excitable little girl and I felt all the stress/pressure of her brand (KS) may have flipped the switch where she eventually became full-on manic depressive.”
Spade's widower, Andy, and the rest of her family have not corroborated Saffo's claims.
“We loved Kate dearly and will miss her terribly," they said in a statement Tuesday. "We would ask that our privacy be respected as we grieve during this very difficult time.”
Spade was born Katherine Noel Brosnahan in Kansas City, Mo., and became a fashion force and cultural touchstone for her instantly recognizable handbags featuring modern, sleek designs with bold pops of color and feminine flourishes. Along with her husband, Spade grew a small line founded in 1993 to an international behemoth bearing her name.
In a February 2017 interview with NPR’s How I Built This podcast, the designer admitted that she had always been a nervous person and that she had often worried about her company, Kate Spade New York, going under in the early years. However, the designer and her husband had cashed out of her eponymous fashion empire by 2007. The two launched another self-financed accessory company, Frances Valentine, in 2015.
Saffo, who is two years older than her famous sibling and lives in New Mexico, added that she’d flown to New York several times in the past three to four years in an attempt to convince Spade to seek in-patient hospitalization and that Andy Spade had supported those efforts. "She was all set to go — but then chickened out by morning," she recalled.
Saffo concluded her email by saying, "She was a dear little person. So dear — so kind, so funny. I'll miss our 6-7-hr-long phone conversations between NY and NM." Then she added, "I'm off to bed for a good cry."