Designer Kate Spade poses with handbags and shoes from her next collection in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

New York - Kate Spade, the designer who built a fashion empire on her signature handbags before selling the brand, was found dead in her New York City apartment on Tuesday morning in an apparent suicide, police said.

Spade, 55, hanged herself and was found by her housekeeper at her home on Park Avenue on Manhattan's Upper East Side, the New York Daily News reported, citing unnamed police officials.

Spade was a former accessories editor at the now-closed Mademoiselle magazine before launching her namesake design company, Kate Spade New York, in 1993. It began by selling handbags before expanding to include clothing, jewelry, bedding, legwear and fragrances. She sold the brand in 2006.

The Kansas City, Missouri, native married Andy Spade, brother of actor David Spade, in 1994. In 2016, the couple launched a new fashion brand called Frances Valentine, which sells footwear and accessories.

Tapestry Inc, the handbag company formerly known as Coach, bought the Kate Spade brand in May 2017 to tap millennials, who are drawn to the company’s quirky satchels and colorful tote bags. The deal also turned Coach into a multibrand fashion house, a strategy that European counterparts such as Louis Vuitton have built their businesses on.

The New York Police Department confirmed the designer's death under her birth name, Katherine Noel Brosnahan. Spade's business representatives did not respond to a request for comment.