The long and the short of it

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page -

So here’s what you do when you find your­self grow­ing up in a small town in Utah in the Sev­en­ties with a highly de­vel­oped sense of style. You paint your bed­room char­treuse (not green, char­treuse); you run up some cur­tains out of broderie anglaise, even though you don’t know it’s called that yet; you sew all your own clothes; you de­sign doll’s out­fits for your friends – which you sell to them at a com­fort­able mar­gin. And you change out­fits five times a day.

At some point, fur­ther­more, you change your name from Laura to one that in­cor­po­rates a gnomic apos­tro­phe.

“We were al­ways taught to work in my fam­ily,” says L’Wren Scott. That ethic stuck: if be­ing Sir Mick’s longterm part­ner has taught her any­thing, it’s that she needs to work that bit harder to prove her­self. “Peo­ple have this im­age of me that’s re­ally quite far-fetched,” she says wryly. “For the record, I don’t live in a cas­tle, nor do I have hot and cold run­ning staff and PAs.”

It’s not ex­actly an unglam­orous life al­though glam­our can clearly be hard work.“I’m not an easy cus­tomer,” she con­cedes. “My at­ten­tion to de­tail could prob­a­bly drive you mad.” Does she mean the repet­i­tive chang­ing of the out­fits? “No,” she says, be­mused, “that’s just self-ex­pres­sion. Mind you, it drove my mother crazy. She made this rule that ev­ery time I changed I had to hang ev­ery­thing up. It made me in­cred­i­bly or­gan­ised and me­thod­i­cal. My eye still al­ways goes to­ward the sin­gle flaw.”

That would ex­plain why she had to re­paint her Bar­bie house. That bub­blegum pink is hard for even a non-ob­ses­sive to live with. Th­ese days Scott favours black when she’s work­ing. “And ev­ery­one who works in my stu­dio knows not to wear colour – it’s too dis­tract­ing when you’re work­ing on a col­lec­tion.”

Scott has been striv­ing since she was five when she be­gan pro­duc­ing macramé and cross-stitch. By the time she was 13 she was teach­ing gym­nas­tics, plough­ing her prof­its back into buy­ing a tram­po­line so that she could broaden her of­fer (she per­suaded her par­ents to split the cost on that: this is a woman who un­der­stood the im­por­tance of keep­ing over­heads low early on).

She also learnt about the mirac­u­lous leg-length­en­ing pow­ers of a nude shoe when pre­co­ciously young. She bought her first heels at 12, a pair of flesh-coloured jazz shoes. “That was a Eureka mo­ment. I re­alised how long your legs look when your shoe matched your skin.”

So to re­cap: our hero­ine is 12, she knows about nude shoes (knowl­edge the rest of the world takes a fur­ther three decades to ac­quire) and she’s al­ready so tall that the danc­ing ca­reer she fan­cied is look­ing in­creas­ingly un­likely. That’s why her mother con­sented to her buy­ing a more se­ri­ous pair of heels at 14. “My mom didn’t re­ally ap­prove. She thought I was too young for heels, but she also didn’t want me to feel self-con­scious about be­ing tall. I never slouched. Slouching was not an op­tion with my mother.”

She’s even taller now – 6ft 3in in flats – and, to be hon­est, she’s not in­ter­ested in mak­ing her legs look longer. Au con­traire, she gave up Pi­lates be­cause she was con­vinced it was stretch­ing her too much. “I was al­ways ob­sessed with pro­por­tions,” says Scott. This was a ques­tion of ac­cen­tu­at­ing her pos­i­tives, with­out stand­ing out too much – a chal­lenge when you have strik­ingly pale skin and raven hair.

It is not that Utah was an unin­spir­ing en­vi­ron­ment for a cu­ri­ous, un­con­ven­tional-look­ing thrill-seeker. “It’s very beau­ti­ful, with moun­tains and in­cred­i­bly marked sea­sons.” But you had to seek your in­spi­ra­tion where you could. She dis­cov­ered hers at the lo­cal cin­ema, al­though be­ing tall, she looked much older than she was and it was a low mo­ment when the man­age­ment tried to charge her for an adult’s ticket to a Truf­faut film. “Even though ed­u­ca­tion was key in my fam­ily, I had no ac­cess to mu­se­ums or art where we lived. I was a bit starved.”

As luck would have it, Utah’s beau­teous scenery even­tu­ally lured star pho­tog­ra­pher Bruce We­ber there to shoot a hosiery cam­paign for Calvin Klein. And this is where Scott’s legs re­ally started to earn their dues. Cast by We­ber to show off those tights, then en­cour­aged by him to pur­sue mod­el­ling fur­ther, she was out of Utah – on her way to Paris with some jeans, a home­made black dress and a trea­sured black cashmere sweater, hav­ing told her par­ents she was vis­it­ing a friend in New York. She worked with Guy Bour­din, Thierry Mu­gler, Karl Lager­feld and David Bai­ley – and, just as im­por­tantly, she got to know the pat­tern cut­ters.

When she moved to Cal­i­for­nia to be a stylist at the start of the Nineties, fash­ion and celebrity were just be­gin­ning to reac­quaint them­selves with one another. Scott had two ad­van­tages. As a model who’d worked with top names, she had cre­den­tials to re­as­sure A-lis­ters. She also knew how to sew: a hall­mark of any L’Wren Scott out­fit is that it fits im­pec­ca­bly. By the end of the decade, she was more or less over­see­ing the dress code at the Os­cars, hav­ing been anointed the event’s first style di­rec­tor, and went on to de­sign cos­tumes for Ocean’s Thir­teen and Mercy.

By now she had a con­stel­la­tion of stellar clients, in­clud­ing Ni­cole Kid­man, who be­gan storm­ing the red car­pets in that dis­tinc­tive L’Wren Scott mer­maid sil­hou­ette. In 2006 she launched the Lit­tle Black Dress col­lec­tion, which pretty much did what it said on the tin.

Seven years on, L’Wren Scott is a fully fledged la­bel, in­clud­ing ac­ces­sories and an epony­mous scent, and a high­light of Lon­don Fash­ion Week, renowned for its so­phis­ti­cated hour­glass tai­lor­ing and sump­tu­ous de­tail­ing, but also for the pre­sen­ta­tion, which in­cludes a serv­ing of shep­herd’s pie for the watch­ing fash­ion ob­servers, and gen­er­ous sight­ings of celebri­ties.

Scott no longer changes five times a day – in fact she’s the mis­tress of day-to-cock­tail dress­ing – and de­spite her ex­traor­di­nar­ily eti­o­lated phys­i­cal at­tributes, her starry con­nec­tions, rock-star com­pan­ion and A-list clients, is em­phat­i­cally not just a celebrity dresser. “We dress up to size 50,” she says. “I love help­ing women make the best of them­selves and it’s a point of pride with me that what­ever your size and shape you’ll find some­thing to wear in my col­lec­tion.”

To un­der­line the point, she has re­cently col­lab­o­rated with Ba­nana Repub­lic on a hit cap­sule col­lec­tion, in­clud­ing jewel-coloured ver­sions of the ver­sa­tile L’Wren Scott se­quinned cardi­gan. “I don’t be­lieve any­one should have to starve them­selves to look good,” she says. “If you re­ally want that packet of crisps, have it. The best thing you can do for your ap­pear­ance is take care of your­self.”


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