Kate Spade died of an apparent suicide on Tuesday morning, and her long-time friend Fern Mallis was taken completely by surprise.
Mallis, a fellow influencer in the realm of fashion, has known Spade as a friend and colleague for decades. On Tuesday afternoon she spoke to reporters from PEOPLE, calling the sudden death "shocking" for those who knew Spade personally.
“This is completely shocking and seems so out of character," she said.
Mallis first met Spade in the early 1990s, when her career was just beginning. Spade launched her brand Kate Spade New York in 1993, with little infrastructure behind her. She still managed to build a globally recognized brand and produce products that took the high-end fashion world by storm.
Mallis was the director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. She praised the years of consistently outstanding work that Spade was best known for.
“Her collection was one of the most popular and brilliant and successful accessory businesses,” she told reporters. “Especially her tote bags, you just had to have it — everyone had to have it. They were at a price point that nobody else was doing.”
As for Spade outside of work, Mallis said that she was a fun and vibrant person — not at all the kind of personality she would expect to succumb to suicide.
“She was as adorable as her accessories were,” she recalled. “She was always dressed fun and was always perky. She was very spirited. She was just a delight.”
Mallis could not remember her last encounter with Spade, but said that she often ran into her with her husband Andy at fashion events.
“They were very much part in the front lane of the fashion universe. They seemed to be a perfect couple, very happy together,” she said. “They were well suited for one another. My heart just goes out to Andy and their daughter.”
Andy was reportedly in the family's Upper East Side apartment when Spade took her own life. She was found by the housekeeper at 10:20 a.m., having hung herself with a scarf tied to her bedroom doorknob. She left behind a suicide note which was addressed primarily to their 13-year-old daughter, Frances Beatrix Spade.
In 2007, the family sold their ownership stake in Kate Spade New York. Spade said that she wanted to spend more time with her daughter.
“I needed a break and I really wanted to raise my daughter,” she told PEOPLE in 2016. “People asked me, ‘Don’t you miss it?’ I really didn’t. I mean, I loved what I was doing, but I didn’t miss it as much as I thought I might.”
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).