L'Wren Scott: The ethereal beauty who loved design

Adopted by a Mormon family in Utah, L’Wren Scott’s interest in design stemmed from her dramatic height, writes Rachel Marie Walsh

L'Wren Scott: The ethereal beauty who loved design

IT SOUNDS morbid, but many newspapers keep pre-written obituaries (or obituary-ready dossiers) for celebrities thought close to death.

These are not just for the elderly or infirm, but people who behave with extreme, public disregard for their own health.

None such files could have been saved in L’Wren Scott’s name. The beautiful designer’s apparent suicide has stunned the fashion world and baffled her fans. Her adult life was a teenage girl’s fantasy: a successful modelling career followed by a stint as a Hollywood stylist before the launch of her eponymous fashion label. Along the way, Nicole Kidman became her BFF and she found love with Mick Jagger.

Recent reports suggest her company was in financial distress, though it is hard to believe the sums cited could have driven a woman with her lifestyle to such an extreme. On Tuesday, Harper’s Bazaar UK editor Justine Picardie told ITV News that “the idea that her career was in a downward spiral is absolutely untrue”. Picardie, who often interviewed the designer and was named as a personal friend by the station, said “her business was doing well. Whatever the figures cited, I know there will be others that show growth. She’d just done a very successful collaboration with Banana Republic and another with a major make-up brand [Bobbi Brown]. There were upcoming collaborations she was excited about. There’s more to this than meets the eye”. Mick Jagger denied a New York Post report that suggested they recently ended their 13-year relationship.

Born in Utah in 1967, L’Wren was adopted as a baby by a Mormon couple that named her Luann. Her mother Lula, for whom Scott named her first handbag collection, was a teacher who taught her the importance of posture. Luann’s design training was initially autodidactic, begun through necessity. Nothing fits a 13-year-old who has hit six foot and has three inches to grow. “I remember finding a black silk 1950s dress, taking it home and unpicking the waistband and the seams, then sewing it together again, so that it would fit me,” she told the Daily Telegraph in 2011.

Her home state is hardly a fashion sweet spot, so it was surely fate that famed photographer Bruce Weber was hired for a Calvin Klein shoot there the year she turned 18. On sight, he encouraged her to begin a modelling career in Paris because New York agencies wouldn’t “get” her ethereal beauty. She emigrated, changed her name and became famous within months, modelling for European editions of Vogue and making her catwalk debut at the Chanel couture show. She later developed a close relationship with photographer Herb Ritts after he booked her for a Rolling Stone cover. David Bailey further elevated her career by shooting her 48-inch legs for a provocative Pretty Polly campaign.

Though a physically natural model, Scott the designer said that she disliked the objectification and was happiest chatting about clothes with seamstresses and couturiers. She began styling in the mid-1990s, eventually moving to LA to do so for film and celebrity clients.

Jagger spotted her at a fashion show at 2001 and was very supportive of career. After the foundation of her label in 2006, he attended every show.

The L’Wren Scott look was “modern, feminine classic”: long, slim sheathes, nipped-in blazers and embellished knitwear. Apart from her debut Little Black Dress collection, she was seasonally inspired by art and nature. Fashion styling often involves packing as much detail into a look as possible, and her background informed sexy little details like concealed sequins and strategically-place slits.

On the red carpet, Scott was the perfect model for her designs, as were her celebrity girlfriends. Christy Turlington, Ellen Barkin and Kyra Sedgwick all sang her praises in the media. The L’Wren Scott Headmistress dress was a favourite of Michelle Obama.

Scott was a social butterfly with the impeccable grace of a Southern belle. US Vogue editor Anna Wintour described her as “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”. She loved to throw fabulous parties and used her hostess skills to make her fashion shows more intimate, serving sushi or salad nicoise to guests living on the fashion-week diet of Coke Zero and soya beans (edamame). The hacks left happy, and not just because of the food. Her collections were consistently well reviewed.

Alexander McQueen, who died by his own hand in 2010, would have been 45 on Monday. The deaths of both beloved talents are a deeply, widely-felt loss to the fashion world.

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