L’Wren Scott, the designer, former model and partner of Sir Mick Jagger, was found dead at her home in New York on Monday morning in an apparent suicide.
A spokesman for Jagger told the Guardian in an email that the singer, who had just arrived in Australia on tour, was “completely shocked and devastated by the news”.
New York police sources said that Scott, 49, was found by her assistant at her apartment on 11th Avenue in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighbourhood at about 10am.
An NYPD spokesman confirmed in a statement that “officers discovered a 49-year-old female unconscious and unresponsive” and that she was declared dead at the scene. Scott is believed to have been found hanged. “The investigation is ongoing and the medical examiner will determine the cause of death,” said the police spokesman.
Scott created acclaimed womenswear collections, and styled some of Hollywood’s biggest names. She also worked as a designer and consultant for costumes on several major films.
The most recent show for her eponymous collection was scheduled to take place in London during fashion week last month. However, it was abruptly cancelled, apparently because of “production delays”.
Accounts filed with Companies House last October show that Scott’s British company, LS Fashion Ltd, ran a loss of £3.5m in 2012, up from £2.5m the year before. The documents also showed that the firm owed creditors millions of pounds and that Scott’s adopted brother Randall Bambrough, a successful American executive, joined the company as a co-director last year.
Jagger, with whom Scott had been romantically involved since 2001, had just arrived in Perth when he learned of her death. A spokeswoman for Scott was not available to discuss the incident.
Originally named Luann Bambrough, Scott was adopted and raised by Mormon parents in the city of Roy, in northern Utah, where she graduated from high school in 1985. Scott learned to sew and make clothes as a girl. She once said that her “frugal” upbringing – by a father who worked in insurance and was a bishop in the local Mormon temple, and a mother employed at the local bank – was influential on her future style.
Scott, who was 6ft 3in tall, was spotted at 17 by the photographer Bruce Weber, who cast her with a then-boyfriend in an advertisement for Calvin Klein. After Weber advised her to move to Paris for more modelling work, she scraped money together from babysitting jobs to buy a one-way ticket. Once in France she changed her name and modelled for Chanel. Her legs also made an appearance as the hands of a clock in a memorable advertisement for Pretty Polly tights made by British photographer David Bailey.
By 1994, tired of “being objectified” as a model and being told she was too tall for runway work, she moved to California and worked as a stylist with the acclaimed photographer Herb Ritts, for magazines such as Vanity Fair. She reportedly first met Jagger on a shoot with Ritts.
Scott also worked on costumes for Stanley Kubrick’s 1999 film Eyes Wide Shut, the 2007 ensemble blockbuster Ocean’s Thirteen, and Shine A Light, a 2008 documentary on the Rolling Stones that was directed by Martin Scorsese.
She was frequently reported to be on the verge of marrying Jagger, with whom she lived in London and France, and who was 21 years her senior. Yet even in 2010, nine years into their relationship, Jagger described her as someone he was “kind of dating”. Jerry Hall, his ex-wife, once reportedly said of Scott: “I think she’s better at dealing with him than I am.”
Early in their relationship, the couple denied rumours that Scott had become a Yoko Ono-style figure, critical of the appearance and raucous lifestyle still enjoyed by the veteran band. In a joint interview given to Womenswear Daily, she stressed the limits to her influence. “Mick really has his own style, and he is quite opinionated about how he wants to look,” she said. “At the end of the day, [the performer] has to feel good in it. It’s not you or I dancing and prancing out there.”
Scott launched her first collection as a designer in 2006 and had since styled a diverse range high-profile women such as first lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and A-List actors such as Angelina Jolie, Nicole Kidman, Amy Adams and Penelope Cruz, who all wore her work on red carpets. She was perhaps best-known for her so-called “headmistress” dress, a favourite of Madonna’s.
Working in an industry lambasted for its unrealistic portrayal of women, Scott won plaudits for her practical designs. “You have to think about your customers – they’re a huge variety of women, from across the world, with different needs, and in different shapes and sizes,” she told an interviewer in 2011. “I’m not interested in making clothes for 12-year-olds,” she said in 2006. “These are for women.”
Her designs were especially kind to tall women. Standing so tall herself and possessing, according to Vogue, 42in legs, she understood the need for elegant designs that flattered them. Scott channelled Golden Age Hollywood glamour both in her designs and in the clothes she wore, but offset her vampish designs with an approachable and open nature.
She was trusted by the celebrities she dressed, and carried that personal touch into her work as a designer. Being pictured on the red carpet as often as her clientele gave Scott an edge over her peers. In an industry in which designers often maintain an aloof distance from the public, Scott bridged the gap between womenswear and its wearers.
Despite being immersed in the money, glamour and absurdity of Hollywood, Scott once said that she preferred spending her weekends driving with Jagger to explore old castles and old churches. She frequently struck a thoughtful tone in interviews that set her apart.
“You’ll see the most perfect person and you are like, God, she’s, like, perfect,” she told Harpers Bazaar about her famous clients in 2011. “And then she’ll tell you everything that’s not perfect. Everyone has their own special set of problems – in their own minds.”
• In the UK, the Samaritans’ helpline is 08457 909090. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). In Australia, Lifeline is 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service
is 1300 659 467.