Reporting the death of L’Wren Scott

I had never before heard of L’Wren Scott until her suicide was reported yesterday. This is not surprising because although she was apparently a highly gifted fashion designer whose work was sought after by many celebrities, she is not a household name for those who do not follow the world of fashion, unlike Dior and Vanderbilt and others who also serve a mass market and advertise widely.

Apparently many news organizations reported her death with a headline that identified her as the girl friend of Mick Jagger, with her own accomplishments only appearing in the text of the story. As Robin Abcarian writes, this has caused some discussion in both media and fashion circles, that treating her as mainly the consort of a more famous person was disparaging to her and her own accomplishments. Abcarian says that this is a tricky issue for journalistic outlets that want people to click on the headline and thus have to decide which is the best way to draw readers.

The New York Times came in for especially harsh criticism because an early headline on its homepage said “Mick Jagger’s Girlfriend Found Dead, Official Says.” And then a couple of New York Times official Twitter accounts tweeted out links to the story using the same language.

Was it sexist? Did it insult Scott’s memor?

Without a doubt.

But you have to understand the context: The New York Times considers itself the hometown paper for the American fashion industry. It prides itself on its sophisticated coverage of 7th Avenue. Scott had a high-wattage clientele: Sarah Jessica Parker, Madonna, Nicole Kidman, Ellen Barkin. Her clothing is sold at Barney’s New York. She had recently created a line for Banana Republic. Anyone with a serious interest in fashion would know her name.

The New York Times website soon came to its senses. It dropped the Jagger reference in the homepage headline and gave the designer her due.

I admit that I for one clicked on the link because of the Jagger connection since her name meant nothing to me. But am I the kind of fashion-clueless person the media really wanted to attract to this story?

So why did a person who seemed to be riding the crest of success take her own life? With Philip Seymour Hoffman it appears that his private life was unraveling and he was descending into drugs and depression. In the case of Scott, indications are that this was the familiar story of a gifted artist not being able to manage the financial end of her business and spiraling into debt.


  1. b breece says

    It sounds like financial problems. Her company was worth something like two million and she owed six millions to creditors. Very sad.

  2. wtfwhateverd00d says

    Sexist? Her only claim to Page One Notoriety outside Manhattan is her connection to Mick Jagger.

    I have to admit, I only found out when @HomeDepot tweeted out that it was a Kwikset Tylo Satin Chrome door knob Mick Jagger’s girlfriend hung herself on.

  3. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    More to it than just that I’d expect surely? Going bankrupt or having awful debts doesn’t mean suicide for most after all. Heard something on TV news which may or not be correct about relationship difficulties too.

    Sad news and a not sufficient reason to take a life in either case. Condolences to her family and friends – I know very little about her but from what I do know I think the world is worse for her absence.

  4. Dunc says

    Success is no protection against depression. It’s one thing to be down on your luck and feel terrible, but at least it makes a kind of sense. But to be successful by every measure your society regards as important, to have reached the pinnacle of your chosen career, to be widely respected and sought-after for your art, and still feel terrible? That’s got to be rough.

  5. smrnda says

    I don’t find it surprising as creative/artistic types are frequently stereotyped as being suicidal, and I can think of a lot of examples.

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