Fashion designer L’Wren Scott, who left a conservative upbringing in Utah to a life of dressing movie stars and dating Mick Jagger, was found dead in Manhattan on Monday in what was being investigated as an apparent suicide.
Scott’s assistant found her hanging at 10 a.m. Monday; no note was found and there was no sign of foul play, police said. The designer had texted her assistant 90 minutes earlier and asked her to come to her apartment but didn’t say why. She was found kneeling with a scarf wrapped around her neck that had been tied to the handle of a French door, police said.
Scott was believed to be 49, but had not disclosed her precise age.
Mick Jagger’s representative said the singer was “completely shocked and devastated by the news.” The pair had been dating since 2001.
The 6-foot-3 designer and former model was born in Utah, and adopted as a child by Ivan and Lula Bambrough, a Mormon couple living in Roy.
“She had a very wicked wit,” said Julie Thompson, who was a junior-high and high school friend of Scott, when she was known as Luann Bambrough. “If you asked her opinion, you would get an honest opinion, but it was never brutal or unkind. She was just very real.”
Luann Bambrough towered over her parents and her classmates, Thompson said, even in junior high school.
“They always tried to camouflage their height,” said Thompson, who is co-owner of the Dairy Queen in Centerville.
Thompson said Monday she had not spoken to Scott in more than a decade — just after she adopted her professional name, and before she moved to Paris.
Paris, Thompson said, was “where they actually put high heels on her. … She felt like she had really found her home.”
As a teenager, Scott developed a love of clothes and made her own on the sewing machine, according to biographical notes from London Fashion Week.
“She had bigger plans all along. It was obvious she would not be staying in Utah,” Thompson said. “I think she was trying to leave all things Utah behind, except for her family.”
Her father died in 2002 and her mother died in 2008. She is survived by a brother, Randall Bambrough, and a sister, Jan Shane, both of Utah.
She made her way to Paris after high school where, aided by her height and striking looks, she found work as a model for some prominent photographers.
But she became more interested in working with clothes than modeling them, and eventually made her name as a top stylist in Los Angeles and also a costume designer for films like “Ocean’s 13.”
Scott, whose elegant designs in lush fabrics were favored by celebrities like Madonna, Nicole Kidman, Oprah Winfrey, Penelope Cruz and first lady Michelle Obama, was a fixture on Jagger’s arm since she met the Rolling Stones frontman in 2001. On red carpets, she towered over her famous 5-foot-10 boyfriend.
In 2006, five years after they became a couple, Scott founded her eponymous label, with an initial collection based on the “Little Black Dress.” She became known for designs that had a vintage feel and bared little skin, like her famous “headmistress” dress — prim, with three-quarter sleeves, but also close-fitting and stylish.
Madonna was one of those who wore the dress. “This is a horrible and tragic loss,” the singer said in a statement released by her publicist. “I’m so upset. I loved L’Wren’s work and she was always so generous with me.”
In 2009 Scott introduced a shoe collection, and in 2010 she collaborated with Lancome on a makeup line and a fragrance. In 2011 came a handbag line, in 2012 an eyewear collection, and late last year, a collaboration with Banana Republic for a line of affordable clothes.
Last month, makeup artist Bobbi Brown collaborated with Scott on a cosmetics line called the Bobbi Brown x L’Wren Scott Collection.
“I am devastated by the tragic news about L’Wren,” Brown said on her website. “She was a visionary designer who I very much enjoyed working with, but she was also smart and kind.”
Though her studio is based in London, Scott presented her runway shows in New York until recently. They were exclusive A-list affairs like few others.
In February 2012, for example, the designer welcomed guests into the wood-paneled, chandeliered banquet hall of an Edwardian building in Chelsea. Guests were offered white wine in flutes as they entered, then were seated at a long table. Before them were plates of caviar, served with a baked potato and sour cream. Fiddling with the lighting and the technical details was none other than Jagger, who also stood next to Scott during post-show interviews.
Adding to the sense of luxury, Scott was known to send large bouquets of roses and handwritten notes of thanks to reporters afterward.
Her clothes were luxurious, too, making ample use of velvet and satin. There were bolero jackets and tea-length dresses, long capes — lined in feathers, perhaps — and high-waisted pencil skirts.
Scott’s designs were “very [much] based on her own personal style ... a very interesting style that combined the strict and the sexy,” said Valerie Steele, director of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. “Not sexiness like body exposure, but sexiness like a very strict governess. They tended to be covered up yet form-fitting and beautifully constructed, beautifully made.” Steele said Scott’s clothes “were more sophisticated than the average red carpet gown” and added that Scott “had a very precise vision of what she wanted them to look like.”
Editors at top fashion magazines like Vogue and Glamour declined on Monday to discuss her influence on fashion — or anything else about her in the wake of her death.
Associated Press writers Tom Hays, Jocelyn Noveck, Mesfin Fekadu and Leanne Italie, and Salt Lake Tribune reporter Sean P. Means, contributed to this report.