It’s been four years since legendary fashion designer Kate Spade committed at suicide at the age of 55.
The tragedy rocked the fashion world to its core, and Spade is still widely mourned by the countless industry insiders who worked with her or were influenced by her designs.
Like Anthony Bourdain, Chris Cornell, and other luminaries who took their own lives in recent years, Spade’s tragic story has inspired millions to open up about their own mental health struggles or donate to charities that focus on suicide prevention.
So it came as a shock this week when Ulta Beauty sent out an email promotion that seemed to make a morbid joke about Spade’s passing.
“Come hang with Kate Spade,” read the mailer that went out to customers on Monday.
On Twitter and elsewhere, recipients promptly called out the company with allegations of insensitivity.
“Ulta, you might need to speak to your marketing staff,” one user wrote, according to CNN.
Another noted that the subject line was “not the best word choice.”
“Ulta sending a promo email saying ‘come hang with Kate spade’ and then sending an apology email for being insensitive because she hung herself in 2018 I’m…” one commenter observed.
“Ulta Beauty recently sent an email featuring Kate Spade New York Fragrance where a very insensitive choice of words was used by mistake. For this, we are deeply sorry,” the company said in a statement.
Thankfully, Ulta was quick to clarify that the phrasing was unintentional.
In a second email that was sent out to customers a few hours later, the company apologized for the unfortunate choice of words and promised to be more cautious in the future.
“This was a mistake, does not reflect our values and we are taking steps to ensure it does not happen again,” the email read.
“It was certainly not reflective of the deep respect we have for Kate Spade, her family and the Kate Spade New York brand and brand teams,” the company said.
“Mental health is a very serious issue and we apologize to the Spade family, our brand partners and our guests as this mistake may have implied otherwise. We are committed to doing better.”
The Spade family — which includes Kate’s brother-in-law David Spade — has not addressed the issue, and at this point, it seems unlikely that they will.
As far as we can tell, customers have mostly been understanding, but it’s obvious that many of them were shocked by the email.
TMZ and several other outlets picked up the story, and we’re sure it was a painful day for Spade’s loved ones, who certainly would have preferred to not be confronted with this grim reminder of a very dark chapter in their lives.
But ultimately, the controversy serves to remind us of how large Spade still looms in the worlds of beauty and fashion.
While her time came to an end much too soon, Spade was a giant of the industry during her short life, a self-made dynamo as well-known for her kind and personable demeanor as for her ubiquitous handbags.
She’s sorely missed, and her legacy lives on.
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