I can’t help but see the eerie coincidence between the suicide of deigner L’Wren Scott on Monday and the fact that it was also the birthday of designer Alexander McQueen, who also committed suicide in 2010.
Artists have long been revered as tortured souls who suffer for their art. Their emotional distress adds to the mystique of their lives, making them all the more intriguing to onlookers. Many want to understand them, their inspiration, the source of their creativity. In the words of Oscar Wilde, “behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.” This proves true in the self inflicted deaths of these two artists.
The illusion created by the fashion world that it’s all glamour, models, fashion shows, parties, and grandeur overshadows the reality of the harsh business side of it all. I witnessed this not too long ago when the fashion accessories designer had to meet with the sales team to decide which pieces of what she created for next season’s collection would actually be sold. It’s not an uncommon practice for pieces from the runway to be “dumbed down” for ready to wear production, but seeing the disappointment on the face of the designer makes it more real. It’s not just turning art into something realistically wearable, it’s altering an artist’s vision, which for them I’m sure is much more heart wrenching.
When fashion transitioned from being an elitist, one of a kind, haute couture entity to a mass market big business, the designers that survived are the ones that found a sweet spot between maintaining their design aesthetic and providing something that the masses will buy and wear. For the designers that were unable to achieve the Goldilocks just right formula, their fashion houses fell. It’s not surprising that in the face of over $6 million of debt, L’Wren felt “discouraged,” as longtime friend Cathy Horyn put it in her heart felt piece in the Times.
A well loved and respected stylist turned designer, L’Wren had a reputation as a hard worker with a level of clothing construction education reminiscent of those that come up in the French couture tradition. Many regarded her as very private, yet charming and warm to those around her, as evident by her relationship with singer Mick Jagger. While he added to her fame, she never wanted to be defined by her relationship, and was a star in her own right via her undeniable talent for creating clothes that women want to wear. Despite her financial woes, it is surprising to those closest to her that she chose suicide as a way out. “She’s not someone I would have ever said was a tortured artist or a tortured designer,” celebrity stylist Cristina Ehrlich told the New York Times.
When a person chooses to take their own life, particularly when there is no note left, the people they leave behind are left with unanswered questions. Hence, we can only speculate about what the true mental state and motivation behind Scott’s decision to take her life was, but I can’t help but wonder if being faced with having to close her business was just too much for her to bear.