NEW YORK — Shock and sadness.
That was the reaction of fashion insiders to the apparent suicide of designer L’Wren Scott. The 49-year-old companion of Mick Jagger was found dead Monday morning in her downtown apartment. Still under investigation and pending the New York City’s medical examiner report, the death appeared to be a suicide, as there was no sign of criminality and no forced entry. Scott was found hanging from a scarf around her neck tied around a bathroom doorknob, a source said.
This story first appeared in the March 18, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
An examination of the body was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon by the New York City medical examiner.
A spokeswoman for the late designer confirmed “the tragic death,” and said, “At this devastating time for Ms. Scott’s family and friends, we request that their privacy be respected. There will be no further public statement for the time being.”
Jagger posted a photograph of Scott on his Web site’s home page 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.”
On Tuesday, Fran Curtis, a spokeswoman for Jagger, was quick to quash speculation of a rift between Scott and Jagger.
“The story in the New York Post re: a split between Mick Jagger and L’Wren Scott is 100 percent untrue. There is absolutely no basis in fact to this story. It is a horrible and inaccurate piece of gossip during this very tragic time for Mick,” Curtis said.
Also on Tuesday, Frontier Touring and Concerts West issued a statement saying the Rolling Stones’ concert in Perth, Australia, would not be going ahead as scheduled for Wednesday.
“No further information is available at this time, ticket holders are asked to hold on to their tickets until a further update is available,” the company said. The band had arrived in Australia earlier this week for a string of performances as part of their “14 On Fire” tour.
Last month, Scott canceled her show during London Fashion Week, citing production problems, and later showed it to retailers and editors informally in Paris.
Those who knew her were stunned by the news of her death, claiming Scott was always exuberant and exhibited few signs that she was considering taking her own life.
“There was a delight to her that is hard to imagine extinguished,” said Sarah Jessica Parker, who wore the designer’s clothes. “She didn’t reveal another side to me but of course we are all complex as human beings and I wouldn’t have claimed to be privy to that other part of late. She had discipline, skill and talent and the recognition was an enormous source of pride for her because she waited so long and worked so diligently.”
Madonna described Scott’s death as “a horrible and tragic loss. I’m so upset. I loved L’Wren’s work and she was always so generous with me.”
Los Angeles-based veteran stylist Deborah Waknin said: “She was one of the most entertaining and fun stylists I’ve had the opportunity to know and we had a great relationship. I’ve worked with her designs and her team for several of my celebrity clients. She was the best. She was from the same era as me, Phillip Bloch and Jessica Paster. We were the forerunners of this celebrity stylist thing. I started working with Herb Ritts because she recommended me to him. She had the most sought-after life and career and it’s just devastating. It breaks my heart.”
Bloch said, “Here’s the thing: She was one of the few who had the connections outside of L.A., so we often shared clients like Cindy Crawford, Nicole Kidman and Mariah Carey. She was just ahead of the game. I used to call her the dominatrix of styling. She would come with just three dresses and say, ‘You are not wearing these two, you are just wearing that one.’ She had that discipline and that eye. She was otherworldly, like ‘Mad Men’ before it was chic. She had that Fifties elegance to her. Ironically, last week I said to three different people, ‘I wish I had her life, look at her life. She’s always somewhere fabulous and fancy.’ You think, here’s someone who has it all. You just never know. I’m very saddened.”
William Matthews, Scott’s former personal assistant, said: “She inspired everyone to do their best, and she deserves every possible accolade. She was a life-changing person, and she had technical skills that people don’t even realize — most people had no idea how gifted she was. The fashion world has lost an incredible stylist, technician and designer.”
A spokesman for Kidman, who knew Scott for 25 years, said the actress was too upset to comment.
Born and raised in Utah, her adoptive Mormon parents, Ivan and Lulu Bambrough, named her Luann. Scott later changed her name. With her model-worthy height — she was said to have reached six feet by the age of 12 and grew three more inches — Scott first took to the sewing machine to make clothes to suit her lanky frame after studying Butterick tomes. Her signature look caught the attention of Bruce Weber at a photo shoot. At his suggestion, the teenager set off for Paris, where she worked for Chanel and Thierry Mugler, and established photographers such as Guy Bourdin.
Weber said Monday, “It’s hard to comprehend. I adored L’Wren the moment I met her, took her picture and told her she was so special — she’ll find her way in Paris. And she did. Ever since then I used to tease her that she had the most beautiful legs I had ever seen on any girl. I used to call her ‘Pretty Legs.’”
One of Scott’s first assignments was with Bourdin. At the casting in his studio, he examined her “from under these glasses with these mad eyebrows,” asked her astrological sign and booked her after learning she was a Taurus, she told WWD in 2010. She also said that every Bourdin shoot was “a long, drawn-out process of pain” that didn’t get under way until the photographer had reduced the model to tears. Scott vowed to herself that she wouldn’t cry and she didn’t.
She also worked frequently with Mugler, who proved unrelenting in his expectations of models, insisting sometimes that Scott wear a big, waist-cinching elastic band. “You could leave there feeling very deformed and very depressed,” Scott said in the WWD interview. “I’m sure I have a lot of insecurities based on that experience, which I try in my work to never, never make anyone feel.”
On photo shoots, Scott said she was never the one smoking cigarettes and flipping through fashion magazines. She read the newspaper to feel like she was “learning something every day.” She also zeroed in on the stylist’s expertise, the construction of the clothes, becoming “very obsessed” as she said “with how clothes hung on a hanger, how they were made.” After nine years and sensing “everything was shifting from Paris,” Scott relocated to Hollywood, where Helena Christensen introduced her to Ritts, who booked Scott immediately for a Rolling Stone cover. In the years that followed, she worked as a stylist, as creative director for fashion advertising campaigns and as a costume designer for films. She amassed a portfolio that included Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds ad campaign and movies like the remake of “Diabolique” and “Ocean’s Thirteen.”
Simon Doonan befriended Scott during her West Coast run when he, too, was a Los Angelean. “L’Wren was enormously charismatic, highly intelligent, unmistakably glamorous, always beautifully turned out, genuine and wonderfully droll,” Doonan said Monday. “It is hard to imagine the fashion landscape without her very special sparkle and beautiful presence.”
Recalling her first red-carpet appearance with Jagger at the 2004 Golden Globes, Scott said she was “completely terrified” by the thousands of flashbulbs and people screaming their names. “I said, ‘I’ll meet you inside.’ I just ran,” she told WWD. (There were also lighter moments, namely his only request of her — “Can you wear flat shoes?”) All in all, Scott wasn’t interested in hiding or flaunting their relationship. “I go to great lengths to protect my private life. I think we do a pretty good job of keeping it private,” she said.
In addition to being a guest designer for Lutz & Patmos in 2006, Scott launched her signature collection that October, calling it “Little Black Dress” because the line was made up of various styles of black dresses. Barneys New York became one of her steadfast supporters. Scott also styled Martin Scorsese’s 2008 documentary about The Rolling Stones, “Shine a Light.” Romantically linked to Jagger since 2001, Scott may have first met him when she styled one of his music videos years before then. More recently, she suited him up for the “50 & Counting: The Rolling Stones Live” tour. In a 2012 interview 48 hours before its London kickoff, Jagger and Scott told WWD, “At the end of the day, [the performer] has to feel good in [his clothes.] It’s not you or I dancing and prancing out there.”
While the Stones made a career out of performing in front of 90,000-plus at Wembley Stadium and other oversize arenas, Scott’s shows were considerably more intimate. Loyalists like Ellen Barkin, Rachel Feinstein, Selma Blair and Brooke Shields turned up at her presentations. The designer uprooted for London for her spring 2014 show. The art world was often very much entwined with her work. Gustav Klimt’s ardor for the Viennese socialite Adele Bloch-Bauer provided inspiration for her fall 2013 collection and David Hockney’s East Yorkshire paintings provided the impetus for what she called her “Yorkshire Pudding” collection.
After striking up a friendship with Scott at a dinner at the British Embassy, Bobbi Brown later started doing the makeup for the designer’s shows, as well as a makeup collaboration that made its debut last month and has pretty much sold out. “The palette was inspired by amnesia roses, which I wasn’t familiar with but L’Wren grew in her garden,” Brown said. “When I arrived in London, these lovely heathery gray flowers were waiting for me in my hotel room. Probably one of the reasons we really connected was because we think with our eyes. We are both such visual people.”
Anna Wintour, artistic director of Condé Nast and editor in chief of Vogue, said, “L’Wren was a total perfectionist, someone who absolutely embodied everything her marvelous clothes stood for: strength of character combined with a confident and powerful style. In person, L’Wren was always unbelievably generous, gracious, kind and so much fun. Her old-world American manners and charm were from another time, but her sensibility was always fiercely modern.”
Scott appeared to be steadily growing her business in recent years, adding Italian-made shoes, handbags, eyewear, a Lancôme collaboration, fragrance and, late last year, a Banana Republic capsule collection.
“Everybody fell immediately in love with L’Wren. How could you not? She was so gracious, so giving and she didn’t take herself too seriously,” said Simon Kneen, Banana Republic’s former creative director. “She was so glamorous. She had all these expressions we called ‘L’Wrenisms.’ ‘Glamorama’ was a favorite — we used that one for a T-shirt.’”
Plans for a service had not been determined as of press time and it was not known if the fall collection would be developed.
Despite her statuesque physique, oh-so-chic designs and A-list clientele, Scott was known to be down-to-earth and pragmatic. “I was raised to be self-sufficient,” she once said, noting the outdoor treks from her youth. “You go camping with me, you don’t have to worry. I can make fires, get it myself, shoot it myself, cook it myself.”
In the 2010 WWD interview, Scott explained her hard-charging ways: “I was raised to be an achiever and a worker. If you’re L’Wren Scott and you decide to do something, you do everything you can to succeed.”