L’Wren Scott: A legacy of elegance

New York TimesMarch 26, 2014 

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Designer L’Wren Scott walks the runway at a 2012 fashion show in New York City. Scott favored a glamorous, ladylike style often called “Old Hollywood.”

SLAVEN VLASIC — 2012 GETTY FILE PHOTO

In the aftermath of L’Wren Scott’s death, media coverage, which was in no short supply, tended to focus on the questions of why and who. Why a woman who seemed to have it all would choose to end her life, and who among her friends, beginning with her partner, Mick Jagger, could explain it. Less attention was paid to what she had created: her fashion collections.

Scott favored a glamorous, ladylike style often called “Old Hollywood.” It was, perhaps by design, niche, and she was, many said, her own best spokeswoman and saleswoman.

“You needed her on the floor, telling and explaining to women, because she was such a master of understanding women’s bodies,” said Beth Buccini, an owner of Kirna Zabete, the Manhattan boutique that carried the collection from 2010 to 2012. “Everyone thinks she could only dress a tall, skinny person like herself, but she really understood curves, too.”

Extravagant fabrics

The clothes conveyed the air of elegance that she herself embodied. “It’s sort of how she lived her life,” said Ikram Goldman, who carried Scott’s collection at her Chicago store from its early days. “She was a very elegant person. She imposed that on the women that were dressed by her.” Though reports arose after her death that her business was struggling, Goldman said that she did a brisk business selling the collection.

The purview was narrow by design, but Scott found ways to nudge her aesthetic in new directions. Her staple pieces and wasp-waist silhouette remained more or less constant, but the shadings would vary. One collection would be English ladylike, like her “Tea Time” collection for fall 2012, and then a few later, Pop Art graphic, like that for spring 2013. Increasingly, they were marked by extravagant fabrics and embellishments. The last she showed publicly, for spring 2014, was influenced by japonaiserie, and many pieces were painstakingly embroidered with trailing wisteria. Asked by Tim Blanks, a critic for Style.com, why she chose a song called “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing,” she said that the expense of those embroideries was hers.

“Every single thing she did, the precision was on another level,” said Cristina Ehrlich, a celebrity stylist who often worked with Scott. “If you ever had an opportunity to go to one of her presentations in New York, or a dinner party that she would have, there was never one stone unturned.”

Fashion parties

Scott treated her presentations, held, variously, in New York, London and Paris, as catered parties at which she was the gracious host. Unlike the runway bonanzas staged by many of her competitors, they were seated lunches at which she served chicken potpie. It had been a signature from the first. At the tiny presentation she held in Paris for her first collection in 2006, to which she invited just a handful of editors and buyers, she offered caviar and blini.

“It was so lovely,” said Julie Gilhart, who was then the fashion director of Barneys New York. “I remember coming out of that thinking, oh my God, if everybody did it this way, it would be a much different world. But that was so L’Wren.”

Gilhart bought the collection for the store, which remained a client until Scott’s death. “L’Wren was hanging on the same floor as Jil Sander, Marc Jacobs, Giorgio Armani, Prada,” she said. “That’s how she started. We took her very, very seriously.”

A red carpet favorite

The rarefied atmosphere of her presentations seemed to infuse the collections themselves, which lingered long after the lunch dishes were cleared. That may be why they spoke particularly clearly to actresses, like Ehrlich’s clients.

“Their eyes would light up in a fitting when they would put on a L’Wren dress,” Ehrlich said, estimating that if a dress of Scott’s was an option for one of her celebrity charges, 95 percent of the time it would end up on the red carpet.

Scott appeared to live in the atmospheric world of fantasy she created, one that had taken an impossibly tall girl from Utah to the fashion capitals of the world.

“She was such a dreamer,” said Sarah Easley, Buccini’s partner at Kirna Zabete. “It’s almost like she lived in the wrong era, the way she dressed herself. She would talk so grandly: ‘We should do an event! We should close down SoHo! It should be beautiful cars and women modeling the clothes! A street party!’ 

Such was Scott’s charisma, Easley said, that even though they struggled to sell her pieces, “We were immediately, like, ‘Yes, we should!’ 

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