Fans of fashion were sent reeling on Monday following the news of the apparent suicide of designer and former model L'Wren Scott. Scott was found by her assistant Monday morning after hanging herself with a scarf. She was 49.
During her lifetime, Scott established herself as a fashion icon both on and off the runway. As a model, she was known for having "the longest legs in London." As a designer and stylist, she dressed fellow fashion icons that include Michelle Obama, Sarah Jessica Parker and Nicole Kidman. She carried herself with grace and ran her multi-million dollar company with aplomb, yet somehow managed a cool elegance in every photo. An image of Scott uncomposed would be difficult to find. She built a career and reputation steeped in the glamour that many women and young girls aspire to, but rarely achieve.
"Yeah, I want to be like that," I thought of Scott after discovering the sartorial elegance of her Headmistress Dress. I wanted to carry myself like the women she dressed (Christina Hendricks, Amy Adams, Ellen Barkin), and was later inspired by Scott's early career history and entrepreneurial endeavors.
Scott had an inspirational love life, too.
For more than a decade, Scott dated Mick Jagger, lead singer of the Rolling Stones. Despite the couple's 23 year age difference, they exuded a confidence and security that suggested a relationship anchored in mutual respect, affection and partnership. Photos of the couple stealing tender glances at each other or sharing intimate moments at very public events portray a magnetic connection that couldn't be shaken by outside forces. The oftentimes cruel and chaotic worlds of fashion and rock and roll seemed to elevate the lovers' affection for one another, and they complemented each other well.
Her well-structured lines extended outside of the silhouettes of her designs, and his vitality shined outside of concerts. She added balancing calculation to his crazy world, and the couple presented themselves as equals. They each had established identities, but they also had each other. It never seemed to matter that she was an influential figure in fashion and he one of the most famous musicians of all time.
But that was until news of Scott's death broke, casting a more glaring light onto her life that included Jagger.
Following the initial reports of Scott's passing, news outlets including The New York Times, Rolling Stone and TMZ ran stories with headlines announcing "Mick Jagger's girlfriend dead after suicide." Other publications like Vanity Fair noted her celebrated career as a fashion designer in the headlines, but the mention was secondary to her relationship with a rock star.
As a journalist, I understand the need for attention-grabbing headlines, SEO optimization and unique visitors. Yada, yada, yada. The rock star-model cliché is as sexy a combination as a leather jacket and lace dress. Using Jagger's name to drive traffic to the story makes sense. He's a well-known figure and people are interested in what goes on in his life. But his name and relationship with Scott shouldn't be used as click bait. The headlines and tweets suggest that Scott's most notable role was that of a rock star girlfriend. And that's unfair.
I respect many of the publications that led with Scott's death in terms of her relationship with Jagger, and write for a few of them. Although most of these magazines and newspapers are run by men, I don't think the headlines were intended to reduce Scott to arm candy or object. I think it may be more of an editorial oversight -- albeit an insulting one -- than sexism. At least I hope so.
If Scott had been less well-known by her career, then maybe it would be understandable to identify her in terms of her relationship when reporting her death. But it isn't very nice, nor does it make much sense. It would be pretty ridiculous to read a headline stating "L'Wren' Scott's boyfriend dead" if Jagger had passed.
The romance between Scott and Jagger shouldn't be the definitive identifier for either individual, but that's not to say it should be marginalized either. The relationship had longevity, and should be noted like the many other successful aspects of Scott's life. Love should always be celebrated.
Scott's life was filled with glamour, beauty and intrigue. Her death was too. Reports are now surfacing stating that Scott's company was millions of dollars in debt. Her show at London Fashion Week was cancelled last month, inciting more speculation of financial trouble. Other reports claim that Jagger had recently ended the relationship. All may or may not have been contributing factor's to Scott's suicide.
Scott was found by her assistant, hanged by a scarf inside her Manhattan apartment. No note was found inside the residence. Her method was haunting. Her life was led by fashion, and she decided to end her life by it as well.