It looked like L’Wren Scott was living the perfect life.
She was the towering beauty who turned a modelling career into a high-profile fashion business which counted Michelle Obama, Madonna and Nicole Kidman as clients. She had a rockstar boyfriend and was regularly photographed on his arm at film premieres and Oscars parties.
Alongside the fame and glamour there was a humbler story at work. Despite her modest beginnings, she had a powerful drive to achieve her own success.
But her story came to an abrupt end in a New York apartment at 10am on Monday. Scott, 49, sent a text message to her assistant asking her to “come by” her ninth-floor duplex, where she was found dead. Police said it was suicide.
Her business, which was reportedly in financial trouble, may have played a role in the tragedy. News of her death “shocked and devastated” boyfriend Mick Jagger, who was in far-away Australia gearing up for a series of concerts.
While there was no note, the rush for an explanation has turned up a number of stress points in what – outwardly – looked like an enviable existence.
What was unfolding behind the scenes? What pushed Scott to her final, tragic decision?
A relentless perfectionist
By all reports, Scott was a driven, hard-working woman with frugality and focus at her core.
“I was raised to be self-sufficient,” the stylist turned designer told Women’s Wear Daily in 2010. “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.”
Fiercely independent, she built her brand from the ground up, refusing to rest on the laurels of her famous partner. Sarah Jessica Parker, a friend and client of Scott, told Women’s Wear Daily following her death that “she had discipline, skill and talent” and the industry recognition she received for her work “was an enormous source of pride for her because she waited so long and worked so diligently”.
According to The Telegraph UK, Scott described herself as “frugal” with her money, her humble Utah upbringing shaping her to be a designer who did not waste fabric.
Her aim in life was not financial gain, but rather contentment. As she told US Vogue: “I don’t really measure success by anything other than if I am happy. That is success to me. Am I happy waking up every morning? And despite the challenges of running my own business, do I look forward to going to work?”
This relentless drive for success and independence was likely complicated by Scott’s recent financial struggles. The Daily Mail quoted a fashion industry source as saying that Scott struggled to make the crossover into the mainstream market, despite her success with high-profile clients.
“L’Wren was in a lot of financial trouble. She was unable to pay her staff and her suppliers and it had been going on for a very long period of time … It was a huge burden on her and she didn’t want to fail.”
Cracks appeared in Scott’s successful brand when she made the shock decision to cancel her London Fashion Week show last month, citing production delays.
Now, many are speculating this decision was in fact due to the financial woes of her company, LS Fashion. According to LS Fashion’s October 2013 accounts, Scott owed a substantial amount of money to creditors. The Age reports this figure to be more than $6.6million.
The obvious choice would be to call on her high-profile partner to loan her the required money (Jagger is reportedly worth more than $US305 million) but, for the headstrong Scott, that was not an option.
Problems with Mick?
As Jagger flies back to New York for the funeral of his longtime love, speculation abounds as to whether there was trouble in paradise for the celebrity couple.
The New York Post reported that a law enforcement official referred to Scott as Jagger’s “former” girlfriend following her death, and sources claiming to be close friends have suggested that Jagger had dumped the former model a week earlier.
Also appearing from the woodwork is Scott’s former housekeeper Lupe Montufar, who opened up to New York Daily News about her former boss’s relationship with the Rolling Stones frontman.
“She knew there were other women, but she accepted it to be with him,” Montufar told the site, adding that Scott told her she wanted to marry Jagger but “didn’t want to get her hopes up or say it out loud to Mick”.
Reps for Jagger have vehemently denied claims of a broken relationship calling it “a horrible and inaccurate piece of gossip during this very tragic time for Mick”.
A friend of the couple also dismissed the rumours, telling the New York Post that “there were no signs of problems in their relationship.”
The perfect life
The shock of Scott’s death is perhaps best summarised by her friend and fellow stylist Phillip Bloch.
“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,'” Bloch told Women’s Wear Daily. “You think, here’s someone who has it all. You just never know. I’m very saddened.”
Scott’s Instagram account (which has been deactivated following her passing) presented a montage of a life well-lived: tropical vacations, private planes, designer clothing and the occasional blissful, intimate snap with Jagger.
Despite her slew of celebrity friends, she shied away from the limelight and lived a low-key existence, avoiding drugs and alcohol and acting as a grounding force for Jagger.
Jerry Hall, Jagger’s ex-wife, once said, “I think she’s better at dealing with him than I am.”
Scott, who was also close to Jagger’s 22-year-old model daughter Georgia May, told Women’s Wear Daily, “I go to great lengths to protect my private life. I think we do a pretty good job of keeping it private.”
Tributes have poured in for the celebrity designer, who was well-loved by celebrities and friends unaware of her inner turmoil.
“She didn’t reveal another side to me,” Sarah Jessica Parker told Women’s Wear Daily. “We are all complex as human beings and I wouldn’t have claimed to be privy to that other part of late.”
In a 2011 interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Scott somewhat tellingly commented on the nature of fame.
“You’ll see the most perfect person and you are like, ‘God, she’s, like, perfect.'” Scott told the magazine. “And then she’ll tell you everything that’s not perfect. Everyone has their own special set of problems – in their own minds.”
Tragically, it seems even the talented and beloved Scott was not immune to her own demons.
For help or information on depression and suicide:
• Lifeline: 13 11 14
• Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
• MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78
• Beyondblue support service: 1300 22 4636
• Lifeline: 13 11 14
• SANE Australia Helpline 1800 18 SANE (7263)