Kate Spade’s older sister said on Tuesday that the fashion icon’s suicide was “not unexpected” and that her sister had struggled with mental illness.
Spade, 55, was found dead in her New York City apartment on Tuesday of an apparent suicide, according to police.
In an email to NBC News, Reta Saffo said that her younger sister was a “precious, precious little person” and “genuine in almost every way,” but that her fame exacerbated what she believed was a bipolar disorder.
“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.
Spade’s husband said in a statement on Wednesday that his late wife had suffered from depression and anxiety for many years, and had been under treatment for five years.
“She was actively seeking help and working closely with her doctors to treat her disease, one that takes far too many lives. We were in touch with her the night before and she sounded happy,” Andy Spade said in the statement.
“There was no indication and no warning that she would do this. It was a complete shock. And it clearly wasn’t her. There were personal demons she was battling,” he said.
Andy Spade also acknowledged that he and his wife had been living apart for the last 10 months, maintaining different apartments a few blocks from each other in Manhattan.
Earlier on Wednesday, a source close to the family disputed Saffo’s account, describing Spade as a “kind, generous, funny, warm and extremely private person.”
In a statement, the source said: “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 comment. Her statements paint a picture of someone who did not know her at all.”
In an earlier email to The Kansas City Star, Saffo, who lives in New Mexico, said that she had frequently flown out to Napa, California, and New York City over the last four years in an attempt to get Spade treatment.