On Monday, designer, former model and stylist L'Wren Scott was found dead in her New York City apartment after committing suicide. While Scott's death was shocking, multiple outlets have since revealed that she had been struggling to keep her label afloat.
Scott started her eponymous line in 2006 with the collection Little Black Dress (according to her website, she liked naming her collections, choosing not to refer to them by the season and year). In 2011 she expanded into handbags, and then into eyewear. Recently she worked with Banana Republic on a holiday collection.
But those ventures weren't proving financially successful. Though Scott's clothes were worn by celebrities on a consistent basis, like her good friend Ellen Barkin, they don't seem to have done well with regular women. An off-the-rack L'Wren Scott dress would sell for a few thousand dollars. While that price point is roughly same as Scott's contemporaries, many other designers have the backing of larger corporations and the benefit of mass-market appeal. While Scott's clothes were once sold at high-end stores like Barneys, Jeffrey and Saks, of that list, they are now only sold at Barneys.
The New York Times reports that Scott's fall 2014 show, which was scheduled for London Fashion Week in February, was canceled because of "production problems." She had planned to show the clothes on social media and present them to the press during Paris Fashion Week, but the collection is not represented on her label's website.
The show's real delay/cancellation was likely due to the company's huge debts. Many outlets have reported that LS Fashion Ltd. was running a deficit of $6 million and that Scott owed over $7 million. Her money issues had apparently been worsening for several years, making this 2012 profile of her in the Times particularly sad:
Ms. Scott has been careful about her business, but then, she is a careful person, being in a relationship with a global superstar. She spent a solid year making clothes before she told anyone she was planning a collection, based on the Little Black Dress. Once it was done, she invited only 23 people to the show, seating them for a lunch at a long table, facing her like a firing squad, "so I would immediately know if I can sink or swim," she said.
"Running your own business is a great learning curve," Ms. Scott said. "When you are the one signing the checks for every zipper and button, you very quickly learn what it costs. You have to remember you are not in a rush to get to the finish line."
It's not clear yet what will happen to L'Wren Scott the brand, but her Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts have been deactivated.
Many have tried to speculate that the state of Scott's relationship with boyfriend Mick Jagger was to blame; the New York Post has claimed that Jagger recently broke up with her and the Daily News went so far as to interview her former maid for details about their relationship. Others still have speculated that though Scott could have asked the very successful Jagger for financial help, she didn't want to be dependent on him. While it's very possible the pair did have relationship issues, for Scott, media fixation on her relationship with Jagger was highly frustrating. In 2013 she said quite clearly, "I'm a fashion designer. I don't want to be defined as someone's girlfriend.
"You always wonder if people will pay attention to the hard work that goes into what you do. And when you're taking on something on your own, it's your company, your investment - your life."
Image via Tim P. Whitby/Getty