Friday, March 21, 2014

L’Wren Scott, Fashion and Suicide

She had been a model for some of the biggest designers in the fashion world, then became a designer herself. Her clients and friends were the rich and famous. She was in a longstanding relationship with one of the biggest stars in rock history. Her Instagram account was loaded with shots of her enviable life of glamour and worldwide travel. And Monday morning, at the young age of 49, she hanged herself in her luxury Manhattan apartment.

L’Wren Scott was a stunningly statuesque (6’3”) small-town American girl who found fashion fame and fortune in Paris modeling for such designers as Chanel and Thierry Mugler. After moving to Los Angeles to run PR for Prada, she became a celebrity stylist, dressing stars including Nicole Kidman, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ellen Barkin and Julianne Moore. In 2000, she was named the official stylist of the Oscars. She took up with Rolling Stone Mick Jagger in 2001 and they’d been together ever since. Then in 2006 she launched her own line of clothing.

“Luxury is a state of mind,” she had once said, but in fact it seemed to be not just a mental state but her way of life. Private jets and helicopters. Multi-million dollar homes in London and New York. A showroom in Paris. Vacations in India and at Jagger’s home on the isle of Mustique. She was a glamour inspiration for many who were shocked and saddened by her death.

You never know what private pain people carry, unless they choose to share it. When I was a boy, my father was shaken by the suicide of a workplace acquaintance. No one saw it coming, my father said; if only the fellow had opened up about his troubles to someone (though in those days men rarely did).

Then he urged me to keep something in mind as I got older: “If anyone you know ever tells you they need to talk, drop what you’re doing, go for a drive and let them talk. Drive all the way to the next state if you have to, to let them unburden themselves.” I have to wonder if L’Wren Scott had no one to whom she felt she could unburden a pain deep enough to drive her to suicide.

I would not presume to speculate what that pain was. The media immediately zeroed in on the mounting financial woes of her company and the fear of its impending and very public failure. Her designs earned celebrity accolades but were not commercially successful. She was $6 million in debt and unable to pay her staff and suppliers. “She wanted so badly for things to be a success,” said a source. “It was a huge burden on her and she didn't want to fail.” Perhaps that was it, or something entirely different. In the absence of a suicide note or some other clear evidence, we cannot know.

“Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life,” she had pronounced recently on Instagram. But that armor wasn’t enough to prevent her from succumbing to some hidden wound. I don’t want to reduce L’Wren Scott’s life and death to the simple cliché that money can’t buy happiness. Nonetheless, her tragedy is a reminder that we all have our demons, and celebrity and luxury are illusions that cannot protect us. It takes an armor welded from elements much stronger than ourselves – family, friends, and faith, for example – to keep those demons at bay.

(This article originally appeared here on Acculturated, 3/19/14)