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Retailer Ulta Beauty apologizes for insensitive Kate Spade email

The message inadvertently evoked memories of the way the luxury product founder took her life in 2018.
Designer Kate Spade at her office on Sept. 16, 2002.
Designer Kate Spade at her office on Sept. 16, 2002.David Howells / Corbis via Getty Images file

Retailer Ulta Beauty apologized Monday after it emailed customers to say "Come hang with Kate Spade" as part of a promotion for the luxury brand, whose eponymous co-founder hanged herself.

The email to subscribers promoting Kate Spade New York's Sparkle fragrance on Sunday prompted criticism from some recipients, who noted the tragic nature of Spade's death.

The body of Spade, 55, and a note were found in her Park Avenue apartment in New York City in 2018.On Monday, Ulta's follow-up email to customers said that "a very insensitive choice of words was used and for that we are very sorry."

The company chalked up the message to an honest mistake. "At Ulta Beauty, our teams are human, and this was truly an error with no intent to do harm."

The apology praised Kate Spade New York for "the joy it brings to the beauty and fashion industries." 

In a statement, Ulta spokesperson Eileen Ziesemer reiterated its response to customers: "We sincerely apologize."

"Mental health is a very serious, important issue in this country, and not something we would ever take lightly," she said. "Thank you for understanding as we strive to do better."

A Kate Spade New York spokesperson, speaking by phone, repeated the brand's response to Adweek on Monday: "We appreciate Ulta’s apology, and they’ve assured us something like this won’t happen again."

Many Ulta Beauty customers and observers on social media expressed dismay over the email.

New York City public relations professional Laura Bedrossian tweeted: "Surprised to see the insensitive and tone deaf email subject line coming from @ultabeauty. Hope your PR folks are ready."

Some critics noted that the blast went out on the first day of Mental Health Awareness Month.

Kate Spade New York, now a sister brand of leather specialist Coach under the luxury conglomerate Tapestry Inc., was founded in 1993 as a maker of handbags.

Spade and her husband, Andy, parted ways with the company in 2007 after they completed its sale to the luxury department store and fashion brand Neiman Marcus. Kate Spade New York puts its name on leather goods, accessories, clothing, shoes, jewelry, fragrances, furnishings and kitchen items.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit for additional resources.