Life through Kate Spade's eyes: Reframing Lived Experience.

My favourite glasses. Ever. My Kate Spade treasures. I look through them differently today knowing their designer and I share lived experience of mental health conditions. Today I see the world differently because of her and these glasses.

My favourite glasses. Ever. My Kate Spade treasures. I look through them differently today knowing their designer and I share lived experience of mental health conditions. Today I see the world differently because of her and these glasses.


I woke up this morning and reached for the same things I always do: my alarm, my glasses, and my phone...

Before my head cleared of sleep-induced fog, the first thing that came up in my feed was news that designer Kate Spade had died by suicide. My gut dropped and my heart broke in a way I hadn't expected.

She is not the first person, celebrity or otherwise, who has succumbed to their mental health condition overwhelming them. 

Nor is she someone I was connected to. I never met her, and I am not a fashionista by any stretch.

This isn't new territory for me either. I have lost my uncle Ed, friend Brad, and neighbour Lisa, among others. I know more people than I want to count, that like me, have somehow managed to stay on this side of the obituary.

So why did I feel this way?

I was reading of her tragic passing, and learning of our shared struggle, through the beautiful Larianna frames that I have cherished since the day I saw them. 

They're the impetus to foregoing my longtime contact lense habit. Their boldness, softness, hidden details, all captured me and have held my attention since, in a way few things have. I love how they made me feel 'more like me' than any glasses ever have. Quirky, graceful, me. They make me want to wear glasses, to have their beauty frame my view of the world.

This morning, these glasses became more than my favourite way to see the world. They are now a powerful metaphor for my identity as someone with lived experience of a mood disorder and who has struggled with suicidal ideation. They are my connection to a woman I never knew, and to a perspective on the world that she and I share with too many.

The Larianna glasses are simple and bold in their design: a milk chocolate nod to retro cat-eyes, with outer corners accented by a heart cut-away revealing pale pink. The silver Spade detail on only one of the sweeping arms. These are the details that others see, the face we put out to the world. Classic elegance and substance with whimsical and delicate grace-notes.

Kate Spade was beautiful, powerful, and successful. She headed up a brand and fashion house that brought whimsy, boldness, charm, and elegance together in a way that captured the hearts, and arms, of many. A Kate Spade bag is always a thing of beauty.

We saw a woman who was on top of the world, making it beautiful for others, one accessory at a time. How many fantasized over the window displays, the website offerings, and the perfect life that someone like Kate Spade must live?

Could any of us, outside of the parameters of her family, her inner circle, ever imagine she was what so many of us are: a person who lives with a condition that can wreak havoc on us, our lives, and our well-being?

Did we overlook the sensitivity and frail beauty of Ms Spade because we were enamoured of the whimsy and strength we saw in her life and designs?

Do we often see the strength we wish we had, in the outer trappings of others' lives? Not wanting to see, or have revealed, shared vulnerabilities for fear of destroying the fantasy. 

Are some of us brave enough to reveal those details in a way that many overlook, but are readable, like a secret code, by those of us in the same club?

This idea brings me to the inside of my Larianna frames. I see their beautiful details in a new way today.

Which is why my heart broke this morning. I suddenly recognized the code.

I have always loved these details, but now they reveal something new to me. Code masquerading as design elements, that I saw, but couldn't read until this morning, when I found out Ms Spade and I were members of the same club.

The inside of the bold milk chocolate arms reveal wonderful, delicate, abstracted floral elements. Lush, refined, and playful pinks, rubies, burgundies, cerise, lilacs, and lavenders encompass the wearer. They are only revealed to the observer in snippets, and from specific angles. 

These delicate decorative details are our inner beauty and frailty, our sensitivity, and the full spectrum of our emotions. Always present, but protected behind the bold facade. Only shared in part, at a glimpse. Unless we choose to remove the frames and reveal ourselves, our weaknesses, our myopia and astigmatism, to those we trust with those details. And trust with our hearts and frailties.

Also hidden on the inside of the right arm, in small white script, is the phrase, "Boys make passes at girls in glasses." Everyone who has ever worn glasses has known, and secretly dreaded, the original axiom that Spade turns on its head. For all of the other details, this is the one that most reveals the sensitivity and empathy of the creator. These traits, while not exclusive to those of us with lived experience, are certainly part of our condition, often to our detriment.

The inside of the frames are flush with as much, or more detail, than the outside.

Those of us with lived experience are prone to being obsessed with details. They are the things we fixate on. They are the vehicles that can cause us to think ourselves into holes when our condition runs roughshod through our lives.

When we are well, and the monster is at bay, we are still obsessed by details. We cherish the details of beauty at every opportunity. Having looked into the abyss, we know the value of light and beauty on the good days. We want to share them, and hope others recognize their impermanence and importance.

Kate Spade shared that gift with me in creating those Larianna frames. She gave me a beautiful way to frame my view of the world.

She also gave me part of herself. Her creations reveal both her strength and whimsy, but also the attention to detail, and emotional frailty of someone with lived experience.

As a result, every day I will now look at the world differently: through the eyes of Kate Spade so to speak.

Through the frames, and the frame of reference, that she and I share, I will do my best to put a piece of myself in everything I do and create. I will share beautiful details with others at every opportunity.

I will look for the beauty in all that it is framed by her creation. I will recognize that sometimes the bold revelation of beauty is really the fragile sharing of our collective insecurities, and our tenuous mental health.

Like Ms Spade, we should be brave enough to share our beautiful frailties with others, because there may come a day when we are not strong enough to overcome what is inside us.

Those of us with lived experience need to be able to be heard, understood, and supported, without having to speak in code, no matter how beautifully rendered that code may be.

To honour Ms Spade, and all whom have been lost to suicide, let's talk about mental health and well-being, the same way we talk about preventing colds and sports injuries. 

Ask yourself how you are doing today.

Ask others how they are doing.

Reach out. Listen.

Share resources like the ones listed below.

Frame your perspective on life with the sharing of beauty, empathy, frailty, and strength, that Kate Spade offered in her creations.


If you need help with your mental health, or know some one who does, please reach out to your local resources, (including peer support) through Mood Disorders Associations, Canadian Mental Health Association, & in the US, 1-800-273-TALK (8255)