Powerhouse fashion publicist/brand strategist Kelly Cutrone urges the fashion industry to unite and create a mental health and wellness-focused organization to lend support, after the suicide of her friend Kate Spade.
When Kelly Cutrone received the devastating news that her friend of over 20 years, designer Kate Spade, had committed suicide, on June 5th, she broke down crying “so hard.” She received the news in the toughest way, from a reporter who reached her in her car, looking for a comment, as she was driving to work. It was a complete and utter shock. “I had just run into Kate about a month ago on the street on SoHo,” Cutrone, the CEO and founder of People’s Revolution, an NYC public relations and brand strategy firm, told Hollywoodlife.com exclusively. “We were talking and laughing about how it’s crazy, we’re old (Kate was 55) and we can’t believe our kids are this old. We talked about how different the fashion industry is today.” Cutrone has a daughter, 16, and Kate’s daughter, Frances Beatrice ( Bea), is 13. Cutrone recalls that Spade “seemed like her normal self. But her look is cheery,” she says. “She always looked like she was two steps away from the Hamptons. But I have to say that almost everyone I’ve known who’s done this (committed suicide), you couldn’t tell beforehand.”
That’s why Cutrone could never have predicted that Kate would tie a scarf around her neck and hang herself from a doorknob in her Park Ave apartment, while her daughter was at school. Nevertheless, she isn’t surprised that another member of the fashion community had succumbed succumbed to demons. Renowned fashion designer Alexander McQueen committed suicide in 2010 and acclaimed fashion stylist Isabella Blow committed suicide in 2007. “Depression and anxiety are epidemic in the entertainment and fashion industries. There’s a lot of pressure in the fashion business and there’s a lot of pain and suffering behind the illusion of glamour, beauty and perfection,” she points out. Cutrone identifies factors, like Amazon putting big retailers out of business, the ever-increasing pace of changing trends and the advent of new competition from “influencers” selling clothes on Instagram, as huge pressures on designers today. “Designers are betting on air all the time,” she says.
While Kate was spectacularly successful in building her own Kate Spade business from scratch with husband Andy, eventually selling it all for $94 million in 2016, Cutrone thinks that it was no doubt hard for her to go from running a huge company to staying at home with her daughter. She now urges the fashion industry to “get real and get up to date on its mental and wellness offerings for its members, like the acting and music industry does for theirs. She points out that the SAG- AFTRA union for members of the entertainment industry has ‘phenomenal’ rehab and mental health insurance. “Health and wellness should be the next trend,” she says. She’s thrilled that the fashion industry united to fight ovarian cancer with a “Super Saturday” fundraising event cancer after the death of legendary Harper Bazaar’s Editor in Chief, Liz Tilberis, from the disease. But now they need to unite to prevent more fashion world members from going off the deep end.
She also believes that as well as depression, anxiety and exhaustion, “addiction is rampant in the industry. It’s very common. Pills are a big thing. They have no calories and you can hide them. It’s so easy to get reliant on Ambien. Fashion people have to travel to Europe and then go immediately to showrooms and to work on six fashion shows,” she explains. “People who work in the industry are tired and suffering on a lot of levels.”
While Kate Spade herself, may have had different issues and reasons for taking her own life, Cutrone nevertheless is desperate for the fashion industry to “have a town hall meeting and say, let’s do something” to help the incredibly hardworking and pressured members of our industry.
It’s a wakeup call.”