L’Wren Scott, founder of the namesake fashion company and girlfriend of Mick Jagger, hung herself in her New York apartment on Monday. Her company was said to be in debt of over seven million dollars and her last runway show was cancelled (the reason given was that the clothes were not going to be ready on time due to production issues.) Read about her death and a bit on her background here. While nothing is concrete, people are speculating that the reasons behind her suicide may have had something to do with the fact that her business was struggling and she had a lot of debt. Her death is really sad and I’d like to share a few thoughts.
1. Celebrity brand ambassadors don’t guarantee success. The list of celebrities who wore L’Wren Scott’s clothing is extremely impressive, yet that still did not guarantee the success of her brand. In fact, after reading through quite a few articles online after her death, it seems from the comments that many people didn’t even know who she was (beyond “Mick Jagger’s girlfriend.”) I think this really highlights the fact that even if the top A-listers are wearing your clothes, this does not necessarily translate into brand awareness and commercial success. (And a side note here – these celebrities probably never paid a penny for her dresses meanwhile it must have cost her a fortune to give them away.)
2. Organizing production for a fashion company is very, very difficult. Even if you are super well connected, rich, and have a famous boyfriend, that still doesn’t mean you are immune to production problems and fabric delays and factories who don’t understand deadlines. The Fall 2014 catwalk show was cancelled due to production delays (although some rumours say it was lack of funds) and for almost every single brand, this is crippling. It appears to have been for her.
3. It’s hard to make $3,000 dresses fly off the racks. One newspaper pointed out that even though L’Wren’s stockist list includes stores like Saks and Jeffreys in the US, they claim to no longer be selling the brand. The only explanation for this is that the collections weren’t selling well enough, and they were dropped. Barneys’ has quite a few of her items online, and most of her dresses are in the $2,500 to $3,000 range. I’ve posted a few photos above, and from the photos, I don’t think these necessarily look like $3,000 dresses. But, I know they are worth the price tags, because she is very well known for her incredible handwork, quality, and detailing, however I don’t believe that many customers care about those things anymore. It takes a highly educated fashion consumer to take an interest in very high end garment construction, there are few like this, and they are disappearing. Sadly, people don’t appreciate quality as much as they used to.
4. Fashion companies are incredibly expensive to run. I don’t know how L’Wren worked out her finances, but most sources are saying she didn’t take any money from Mick, and if her company had $7 million dollars in debt, then she certainly managed to spend quite a lot in the past few years. I know from experience that the cost of production, public relations, marketing, and day to day operations is very expensive, and I don’t run a company that needs to pay to entertain celebrities, gift expensive dresses, and have fancy offices and catwalk shows. I’m quite happy to fly Easyjet for business and take public transport, I somehow doubt L’Wren was doing this (even if she was willing to, I don’t think her image could take it.) Factor in the fact that her wholesale orders were probably not massive, and she wasn’t retailing her clothing – and you have very expensive operation costs and very little coming in. This is the reality many small brands face.
5. A glamorous life, a very pretty face, and a rock star boyfriend don’t mean happiness. And I think that is is an important lesson for all of us.
R.I.P. L’Wren Scott.