As family, friends and celebrities remember the late fashion designer, Kate Spade, with touching tributes, one of Spade’s longtime industry friends, makeup artist and entrepreneur Bobbi Brown, is reflecting on Kate’s death and the legacy she left behind.
Long before both women launched namesake businesses and turned them into global empires (Kate with Kate Spade New York and Brown with Bobbi Brown Cosmetics), they met when Brown was a makeup artist at a shoot for Mademoiselle magazine, where Spade was an accessories editor.
“We bonded instantly because she was nice and normal,” says Brown tells PEOPLE. “We just always had a nice friendship.”
Brown says she’s still “sick” to her stomach since hearing the news of Kate’s apparent suicide on Tuesday. “I’m heartbroken. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Brown recalled that they both launched their individual brands around the same time (Brown in 1991, Spade in 1993). “I realized yesterday how similar our paths have been,” Brown says. “She launched that simple black bag at the same time I launched the simple nude makeup.”
Both ladies wanted to disrupt the more dramatic trends left over from the ’80s and usher in simpler, more practical styles. Spade said in 1999 that she was frustrated with the lack of function in the popular handbags of the time. “I wanted a functional bag that was sophisticated and had some style,” she told The New York Times.
“Kate just took this simple concept and even as simple of instead of putting the label on the inside, putting it on the outside,” recalls Brown. “And now all of these bags, Kate kind of led the way for that.”
And as far as Spade’s second act, launching her line Frances Valentine in 2016 and legally changing her name to reflect it, Brown thinks the move was “brilliant.”
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“She so badly wanted to get back into what she loved which was creating a brand and product,” Brown says. “She hadn’t hit her stride yet with Frances Valentine. Her line was only two years .”
The two remained friendly for years, with Brown even doing the makeup for Spade’s fashion shows, and reconnected around the time when Brown left her company in 2016. (Spade and her husband sold their shares of Kate Spade New York in 2006.)
“It’s so easy to go to all the negativity and the gossip and who’s saying what and what happened behind… but if you step back and see her legacy and her as an icon, you get the chills. I don’t think she realized how loved she was by women and how much she touched people.”
One thing Brown recalls about working with Spade is the distinctive design of her offices. “I went to her showroom to talk about what the makeup should be and I’ll never forget she had, not a conference room, but like this open area with individual tables with water pitchers and lemon and homey touches. And that inspired me when I had my first office to kind of bring the homey lifestyle into my office. And that was so memorable.”
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).