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Kate Spade, renowned fashion designer, dead in apparent suicide

NEW YORK -- Fashion designer Kate Spade was found dead in her apartment of an apparent suicide Tuesday, police said. She was 55.

News of her death shocked the fashion world and led to an outpouring of tributes from her legions of fans.

Housekeeping staff found Spade inside her Park Avenue apartment in Manhattan around 10:20 a.m. Tuesday, law enforcement officials told CBS News. They said she left a note at the scene but the contents of the note were not divulged. She had apparently hanged herself with a scarf attached to a door knob. Her husband and business partner Andy Spade was in the apartment at the time, police said at an afternoon news conference.

The NYPD's chief of detectives, Dermot Shea, said that while investigators were still in the early stages of their inquiry, evidence including the state of the apartment and the presence of a note pointed to "a tragic suicide."

It's unclear how long Spade had been dead. The medical examiner will perform an autopsy.

"We are all devastated by today's tragedy," Spade's family said in a statement through a spokesman. "We loved Kate dearly and will miss her terribly. We would ask that our privacy be respected as we grieve during this very difficult time."

Kate Spade

Kate Spade seen in New York on June 2, 2003.

Chip East/Reuters

The company she founded and later sold, Kate Spade New York, now has over 140 retail shops and outlet stores across the U.S. and more than 175 shops internationally.

Kate Spade was born Katherine Brosnahan and grew up in Kansas City, Missouri.

She was working as an accessories editor at Mademoiselle magazine when she launched her company with husband Andy in their New York apartment in 1993. She started the company based on six shapes of bags that she thought every working woman needed. It created a smash.

"I grew up in the Midwest, where you have to have it (a fashion item) because you like it, not because you're supposed to have it," she told The Associated Press in 2004. "For our customers, fashion is in the right place in their life. It's an adornment, not an obsession."

From the original boxy handbags, she expanded into shoes, luggage and other accessories, as well as a home line, stationery, and three books. Spade won multiple awards from the Council of Fashion Designers of America and was named a "giant of design" by House Beautiful magazine.

"As an accessory, a great bag that takes the outfit somewhere else is interesting," she told the AP in 2000.

She walked away from the company in 2007, a year after it was acquired from the Neiman Marcus Group for $125 million by the company then known as Liz Claiborne Inc.

Coach, now known as Tapestry, bought the Kate Spade brand last year for $2.4 billion, seeking to broaden its appeal. Meanwhile, Spade and her husband -- brother of comedian David Spade -- started a new handbag company a few years ago, Frances Valentine. And she changed her name to Katherine Noel Frances Valentine Brosnahan Spade.

Spade was the aunt of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" star Rachel Brosnahan.

CBS News' Pat Milton contributed to this report.