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The fashion industry remained in shock Tuesday over the death of L’Wren Scott, seeking answers to why the designer took her own life.
A spokeswoman for the New York City’s medical examiner’s office said Wednesday the official cause of L’Wren Scott’s death was hanging and the form of death was suicide.
This story first appeared in the March 19, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The 49-year-old Scott had been suffering from depression over the last few months, several sources told WWD, but even these people expressed surprise that the normally confident, ebullient designer would end her life. Scott was found dead Monday in her downtown New York apartment.
Scott’s longtime companion, Mick Jagger, posted a photograph of her on his Web site’s homepage Tuesday with the following statement, “I am still struggling to understand how my lover and best friend could end her life in this tragic way. We spent many wonderful years together and had made a great life for ourselves. She had great presence and her talent was much admired, not least by me. I have been touched by the tributes that people have paid to her, and also the personal messages of support that I have received. I will never forget her, Mick.”
The Rolling Stones postponed all of their performances in Australia and New Zealand scheduled for this month and next, due to Scott’s death. A statement on the band’s official Web site said the musicians were “deeply sorry and disappointed” to postpone the remainder of their “14 on Fire” tour in Australia and New Zealand. The tour is an international one, and is set to move to Europe over the summer.
Tommy Hilfiger, a good friend of Scott’s and Jagger’s who frequently saw them on vacation in Mustique, said: “L’Wren was a very talented woman with great taste. Dee and I have been friends [with her] for quite some time now, and she was a generous and loving person. We will miss her deeply.”
Beyond the gruesomeness of her death, many industry insiders were bereft by the loss of such a irrepressible personality. In a business that relies on criticism to make it run, there was an uncharacteristic shortage of words to describe the situation. As one Hollywood power player said, “It’s so incredibly tragic. It’s beyond sad — forget that.”
While Scott’s inner circle of friends chose not to comment, many fashion executives and stylists on both coasts and abroad questioned how her life unraveled. One acquaintance said his antenna shot up around the holidays after Scott’s Instagram account fell silent following a flurry of exotic photos around Christmas. “But then I thought she must have been busy with her collection,” the source said. “We all live such hectic lives. But she really seemed to have it all.”
Sources mentioned how Scott alluded to brushes with depression, and several said those feelings had intensified over the last few months, beginning in the New Year and then through early February, when Scott abruptly canceled her planned presentation during London Fashion Week, citing production problems. But for the most part, fashion insiders recalled the 6-foot-3 former model being ever-welcoming, quick to share in a laugh and well aware that she could be intentionally be over-the-top.
“It was so sad, So unexpected: I was very shocked,” said Mathilde Thomas, cofounder of Caudalie, who worked with Scott last year when the designer created a special-edition version of the spa and skin-care brand’s popular Beauty Elixir. To celebrate the launch, the two women held a dinner party at The Plaza hotel on Oct. 10.
“She was the sweetest, the most fun,” Thomas said, adding, “She had a great sense of humor and was always witty with the press.” Thomas also pointed out how giving and generous Scott was. Prior to The Plaza party, Thomas recalls Scott telling her, “I want to give you a dress.” After a shopping trip to Barneys New York, Scott then sent a tailor over to make final adjustments. Thomas said she never recalled Scott being depressed or anxious. “She never told me she had a problem in her business,” Thomas noted, adding “she was extremely busy at the end of the year.”
There was one thing that did puzzle Thomas, however: When Caudalie was about to launch its first London spa in early February, Thomas sent Scott an e-mail invitation. “I did not hear back from her. She always answered my e-mail,” Thomas recalled, speculating that Scott had canceled her London show around that time. “It was very sad.”
A source said Scott’s company is unlikely to continue to operate and that it would not ship the designer’s fall collection. While filings for Scott’s company at Companies House in London showed her firm lost 4.24 million euros, or $7.04 million at current exchange, in 2012, this was only for the U.K. portion of her business and is not indicative of its total financial condition. In addition, sources stressed that Scott’s firm did not owe any creditors.
Retailers such as Ikram in Chicago, Forty Five Ten in Dallas and Gito in Englewood, N.J., all said they were pleased with sales of Scott’s collection. Barneys New York’s chief executive officer Mark Lee described Scott Tuesday as “a beloved and accomplished designer of ours for many years….She was an important partner with a kind and gracious spirit.”
“I carried the line and I was doing quite well with it,” said Gito Alvarez, who owns two stores in Englewood, N.J. and Millburn, N.J. (Only the Englewood store carried it.) It was Gito’s second season with the collection, after experiencing 100 percent sell-throughs for fall. “Now for spring we have two dresses left and we are 97 percent sold out,” he said Tuesday. He said the customer ranged anywhere from 30 to 55 years old.
Alvarez said when Scott canceled the fall show, he kept asking his sales representative whether they could see a capsule. “It was doing very well. We didn’t want to lose the momentum,” he said. He said Scott didn’t show the fall collection and canceled all their appointments. “I was told she wasn’t happy with her samples and they weren’t going to present.”
Brian Bolke, owner of Forty Five Ten, said he just received Scott’s spring shipment and could not comment on how it might sell. Based on past seasons, however, he said, “The interesting thing is it’s not a markdown business. It’s very classic and carries over season to season. There’s a real following for it. A lot of her bestselling pieces were the long pencil skirts, embellished cardigans and sleeveless, low-neck blouses. All the classics would sell 100 percent. It became a little bit of a uniform for them [his customers].” He said she did a one-off pre-spring 2013 collection of pencil skirts, cardigans and blouses “which sold to the piece.”
But there were fits and starts. Retailer Jeffrey had carried it for fall, but didn’t buy it for spring, said a spokeswoman.
Ikram Goldman, owner of Ikram, said that she’s carried Scott’s line from the beginning. “It sells beautifully,” she said. She also carried her handbags, hats and scarves.
“She will be missed. There will be a definite void,” said Goldman.
Hair stylist Sam McKnight, who worked with Bobbi Brown and Scott “to bring her vision of high glamour to the runway,” said Wednesday it was always such fun stopping by Scott’s studio to catch up on the gossip “L’Wren was almost from another era,” he said. “I drove by her London studio last week and the warm spring sun was teasing out the magnificent pink and white blossoms of the magnolias in Chelsea. There is no tree more glamorous than a magnolia in full bloom and I thought of her. I thought how she’d be loving this beautiful unexpected explosion of beauty. I thought, ‘I must send a picture to L’Wren,’ then I never did,” McKnight said. “In a mundane world of grunge, we need people like L’Wren to keep the glamour alive. And I thank her for that.”
Some might not realize that Scott was “really a humanitarian, and a very generous one at that,” said celebrity dermatologist David Colbert. For a 2010 fundraiser for Haiti’s earthquake victims that Scott cohosted with Jagger and Colbert, the designer took it upon herself to round up guitars from Bob Dylan, Bono, Brice Springsteen and Ronnie Wood to auction at the event to help finance prosthetics for the injured. “She did it all very quietly and gracefully,” he said. “That really is an important part of her legacy even though many will remember her as a great fashion designer.”
Plans for services have not been determined.