Death is a strident democrat.
That obvious truth played out with poignant power at the memorial service for L’Wren Scott on Friday evening at St. Bartholomew’s Church on Park Avenue. For all the fashion industry’s glamour and its melting-pot population, most of us in and around the business lead pretty unfancy lives when we go off-duty. Not all, but most. What do we have in common with SJP? Ellen Barkin? Mick Jagger? First thought: nothing, nothing and really nothing.
The celebration of L’Wren was one of those instances that argued to the contrary, as we were reminded of the tried and true: We all share the basic human condition, a fact that rings most obvious during times of great sadness and joy.
The church, a Byzantine masterpiece of elaborate detail, radiates majesty. As evening traffic rushed up and down Park, guests arrived to a small crowd that had gathered outside. Inside, branches of cherry blossoms formed an arch over the entry where, at the other end of the long, dramatic aisle, the altar installation lauded L’Wren with more flowers — her signature moody purple and red blooms by Oscar Mora — and her full-length portrait by Brian Adams, her smile welcoming atop her impossibly linear proportions.
The officiant, Rev. Lynn C. Sanders, referenced L’Wren’s families, an insightful usage. Many fashion people have multiple families: the one into which they were born — or, in L’Wren’s case, adopted; their fashion family, and, for L’Wren, the extended, seemingly close Jagger clan.
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As was well-reported on Friday, Jagger attended with his children Karis, Lizzie, Georgia May, James and Lucas, and grandchildren Mazie and Zak Watson. Others in attendance intersected the worlds of fashion and broader celebrity: Keith Richards and Patti Hansen, Ron Wood and Sally Humphreys, Anna Wintour, Julianne Moore, Meg Ryan, Olivia Munn, Lynn Wyatt, Sarah Jessica Parker, Martin Scorsese, Lorne Michaels, Baz Luhrmann, Daphne Guinness, Renée Zellweger, Karlie Kloss, John McEnroe, Tony Shafrazi, Francesco Clemente, Francisco Costa, Glenda Bailey, Olivier Theyskens, Graydon Carter, Adam Glassman, Mark Lee, Simon Doonan, Daniella Vitale, Hamish Bowles, Cindi Leive, Ingrid Sischy, Sandy Brant, Steven Kolb, Famke Janssen, Ken Downing and Lizzie Tisch.
James Jagger gave an exquisite recitation of Lord Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty,” the lines “One shade the more, one ray the less/Had half impaired the nameless grace/Which waves in every raven tress,” foreshadowed Mick’s own tribute later, a heart-wrenching rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman.”
The grandchildren shared duty on Psalm 23, and L’Wren’s niece read “Eternal Voyage” by Susan Noyes Anderson.
The speakers each reflected differently about L’Wren, but there was a thread: They depicted the woman they knew deeply as the woman she presented herself to be in casual and professional relationships with people such as myself. Apart from the power of the physical presence — a stunning glamour that fused retro grandeur with modernity in a unique presentation, one cultivated yet rooted in natural gifts — they spoke of a woman driven; private, on some levels mysterious even to her friends and, above all, kind. They also addressed the importance of L’Wren’s fashion as representative of who she was. Her brother, Randy Bambrough, recalled the little girl who became fast friends with a neighborhood child with Down’s Syndrome.
“She had such a deep heart, especially for the underdog,” he said. Years later, “one of the most touching moments of her career was when she designed a handbag and named it after her mother.”
Friends from her adult life acknowledged a complicated woman who cared passionately and had a guarded core. While billed as a celebration, this was not the moment for lots of smiles and laughter while sharing favorite L’Wren anecdotes. Those who love L’Wren still mourn, which was clear in their remembrances. Barkin suggested that perhaps L’Wren’s clothes, constructed impeccably to hug, reveal and conceal, were a metaphor for the protective armor in which she wrapped herself.
“She was what she created…strong, confident and fierce on the outside,” Barkin offered, and inside, “a heart of gold, fresh and extremely sensitive.”
André Leon Talley, who has often spoken of the influence of his beloved grandmother, thought about L’Wren the Sunday before she died — in church. Like everyone, Talley loved her glamour.
“I used to say she was the reincarnation of Ann Miller — she loved that,” he said. They frequently e-mailed back and forth, but he hadn’t heard from her in a while. So after her death, he hit send on a final correspondence, which he read. “My dearest, dearest L’Wren, I’m so sorry, you are on my mind.…I want to thank you for all you do as a friend, your perfection, kindness and your caring. You gave your best. Good night.”
Parker met L’Wren about 10 years ago and said, she “swept me off my feet.” She acknowledged a mystery to L’Wren that she couldn’t crack and didn’t try to, respecting those areas her friend chose to keep private. “I respected the silent boundaries,” she said, content with “how honored and happy it made me when her glorious long arms reached down to hug me.”
Cathy Horyn called her “the most tolerant and nonjudgmental person” that she’d ever met.
Rachel Feinstein recalled their mutual creative proclivities. She broke down describing the painting she intended to create for L’Wren but never got to present. “I’ve lost my dear friend.…L’Wren Scott will be an inspiration,” she said.
Then it was Mick’s turn. He spoke beautifully and remarkably, offering numerous charming snapshots of their life together. At first glance he was “entranced by this tall, beautiful enigmatic woman.” And lest one think so audacious a legend impervious to awe, he noted that early in their relationship they went to a club, and L’Wren danced on the tables in her three-inch heels. “It was something.”
Their early attraction had nothing to with her being a fan — apparently, she wasn’t. Jagger told of going to a fashion show with L’Wren in Paris that, unexpectedly, had an all-Rolling Stones soundtrack.
“It quickly became apparent that L’Wren wasn’t up on the Rolling Stones canon,” he said. It took her three tries to successfully identify “Gimme Shelter.”
Jagger spoke of L’Wren’s nurturing side, whether her deft navigation of the role of stepmother, caring for him when he was sick, planning massive family celebrations or insisting on “hobbling” to his grandson Zak’s first baseball game despite a fresh orthopedic issue. “I’m so grateful to her for enriching my life in every way,” he said. He then recited something he’d written for her shortly after her death; it seems inappropriate to repeat that without explicit permission.
Before the final blessing, Lisa Fischer, a long-time singer with the Rolling Stones, sang “Amazing Grace.” The power and emotion of her voice and the song absolutely captivated.
Earlier, Jagger, too, had sung, finishing his remarks with an emotional interpretation of “Just Like a Woman.” He tweaking the lyrics to reference “her long black curls,” but finished the song as written: “You ache just like a woman. And you break just like a little girl.”