The Sunday Magazine: Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain

I had a lot of other things I wanted to write about today but after the announcement of Anthony Bourdain’s death by suicide on Friday I couldn’t. It was also because three days earlier another artist I admired also took her life, Kate Spade. Both were originals in their respective fields. I don’t want to get too caught up in their similarities instead I want to take a moment to remember why I care that they are no longer here.

I was fortunate enough to have a window into the backstage world of the fashion industry in New York. As an outsider I could often stand back unnoticed watching the shows come together. One of the things which made me smile is if I looked over at the spot where the handbags were stored there was a similarity to many of them; a tag on the outside which said Kate Spade. Ms. Spade predicted the need for an accessory brand which catered to those who wanted to be wealthy. Using simple design techniques, she dominated this market. I knew if she ever branched out into men’s accessories I’d be adding something. My first iPad case was a Kate Spade. The current power pack on my cell phone is a Kate Spade. Her simple no-bullshit aesthetic was what appealed to me. I was so interested to see what her new brand, Frances Valentine, had to show me. I felt like she had already identified another niche to dominate.

Anthony Bourdain was the cultural successor to gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. I know he would probably hate to be described that way, but his words carried the same visceral authenticity as Mr. Thompson. I remember reading his first book “Kitchen Confidential” and I leant it out with this recommendation, “it could be called Fear and Loathing in the Kitchen”. In a world where there are so many who assiduously polish an image Mr. Bourdain sought to take us along with him. We shared the same travel desire to stay away from the places where tourists gathered and find the places where the real food of an area was made. Because of him some of my favorite travel memories are in a neighborhood restaurant where the locals delighted in watching the silly American read from his phrasebook. All the while feeding me unforgettable food. Mr. Bourdain challenged me to look underneath the surface,

Which is one of the reasons their deaths sadden me. Because there was clearly something underneath the surface they had become skilled at masking. I miss both of their perspectives.

Before I finish this, I want to once again mention Project Semicolon. Founded on April 16, 2013 every year on that date you will see some of your friends or acquaintances wear a drawn semicolon on their wrist. It symbolizes this: “a semicolon represents a sentence the author could’ve ended but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.” Making the choice to use a semicolon over a period is not simple but Project Semicolon provides a visible way for those deciding on their own punctuation choice. A way of not feeling alone. In that can be found the first moments of deciding to use a semicolon. I made a donation this week in the names of Ms. Spade and Mr. Bourdain because I hope the awareness of their plight can also help others who need to see a different choice.

Mark Behnke