Kate Spade, Rhapsody, August 2016

Kate Spade Through the Years

The iconic designer built a brand and a legacy.

Her handbags were the hottest arm candy of the 1990s — those brightly colored little totes with the spade logo that became ubiquitous on the streets of New York and beyond. But by the time she sold the last shares of her company in 2006 after having built it from the ground up, Kate Spade was the namesake of a giant fashion brand that included everything from shoes to stationery to pajamas. Here, a look back at the life and legacy of the iconic American designer, who died by suicide on June 5 at the age of 55. Pictured: Spade in New York, 2016.

THE EARLY DAYS Juergen Frank/Corbis via Getty Images THE EARLY DAYS A journalism-school graduate, Spade went on to become the accessories editor of Mademoiselle magazine and later, with her husband Andy, founded her design company. And it all started with those bags. Her goal in creating them was simple: ''I wanted a functional bag that was sophisticated and had some style,'' she once told the New York Times. QUICK RISE Ron Galella/WireImage QUICK RISE Spade, with her husband Andy and actor/comedian brother-in-law David, attends the CFDA fashion awards in 2001. By this time, despite only being in business for a few years, she was already gathering accolades in fashion. POPS OF COLOR Spencer Platt/Getty Images POPS OF COLOR Bright, happy hues were hallmarks of the Kate Spade aesthetic. PARTNERS IN LIFE AND BUSINESS Erin Patrice O'Brien Photography, Inc./Corbis via Getty Images PARTNERS IN LIFE AND BUSINESS Married business partners Andy and Kate Spade pictured in 2003. ''We're both very creative,'' she told the New York Times. ''But he has a calm approach and I tend to get very nervous. I worry a lot. And he says, 'It's just handbags. Jeez, Kate, it's just handbags.' '' A MOTHER, TOO Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images A MOTHER, TOO Spade and her daughter Bea (who was 11 years old at the time of Kate's death), pictured at a New York benefit in 2007. The previous year, Kate and Andy sold their interest in the company they'd built to dedicate more time to family and charitable efforts. FRIENDS AND ASSOCIATES Astrid Stawiarz FRIENDS AND ASSOCIATES Spade remained an influencer on the New York scene even after selling the company. Pictured: Spade (center) with Tracy Gardner and Jenna Lyons, president and creative director of J. Crew; daughter Bea; celeb stylist Robert Verdi; and Darcy Miller of Martha Stewart Weddings. ON TO NEW PROJECTS Allison Michael Orenstein/Contour by Getty Images ON TO NEW PROJECTS In 2016, Spade launched a new accessories line called Frances Valentine. According to the New York Times, she was so passionate about the new project that she mulled changing her surname. BACK TO BASICS David Howells/Corbis via Getty Images BACK TO BASICS Spade in 2002. Upon the launch of Frances Valentine in 2016, she reminisced with The Cut about her days working her way up in magazines before her design career started. "It absolutely gave me the most amazing sense of resilience and resolution — hearing people say, Don’t come back to me with a no. You have to make this happen. You either want to be in fashion or you don’t. You’ll either make it or you won’t."