First Lunch, Then Fashion

Basquiat and bento: L'Wren Scott at her show in the Tony Shafrazi Gallery flanked by Christy Turlington, on her right, and Kyra Sedgwick, Ellen Barkin and Jonathan Newhouse, on her left. Photo: Christoper Anderson

For the past two seasons, a very tall stylist named L’Wren Scott has held the most elegant of all the shows on the New York calendar. It’s at lunchtime, on the last day of Fashion Week, and it’s tiny: just 47 people. It’s at the big, white Tony Shafrazi Gallery in far West Chelsea, which is cleared of art for the occasion. The light inside is bright and clean and fantastic.

There is none of the typical fashion-show crowding, shoving, or D-list grandstanding: The guests sit at a long, U-shaped table. Suddenly an army of waiters appears bearing glossy, lacquered bento boxes. They are set down all at once, and the tops come off, ta-da! Delicious!

Everyone tucks delicately into the crystal shrimp dumplings and then all six feet and three inches of Scott appears and there’s a hush. She sits in the center of the U, which is where the celebrities (Christy Turlington, Kyra Sedgwick, Rachel Feinstein, Ellen Barkin) sit, too, with the senior-level-only editors fanning out on either side.

A look from the show.Photo: FirstView

Scott is a perfectly vertical person, with a curtain of jet-black hair and very, very pale skin. She is not unlike Anjelica Huston as Morticia Addams: There is something goth about her, but the effect is glamorous rather than ghostly. She is not pretty, exactly, but she commands attention—more even than the identical Afroed twins André Leon Talley has brought, a pair of very handsome bookends.

Every season, it seems, fashion becomes a bit more mass, a bit more democratic. But not for L’Wren Scott, who greets almost everyone in the room by first name. What makes Scott successful is that she is not designing for the many, she is designing for the few, a group of which she is a full-fledged, double-kissing member.

After some eating, and some chatting, models come out wearing the clothes and march back and forth. The pieces are as universally lean as Scott herself: skinny dresses, skinny pants. The palette is gray, black, purple, and hunter green. There are touches of velvet, and several of the pieces have high collars and rows of tiny buttons in that way that is Victoriana as traditionally interpreted by sixties rock stars. The music is Jimi Hendrix, and there is one feather-fedora, tight-pants look that is easy to imagine on Hendrix himself. (This sixties rock legacy is ever present with Scott. She is regularly photographed with her boyfriend, Mick Jagger, and he’s been known to pop into her shows from time to time, but she refuses to discuss this.) A shimmery lavender evening dress that’s very red-carpetable recalls Scott’s job as a stylist with a star-studded client list. These are pretty, uncomplicated clothes that can plug holes in the wardrobes of the tall, the thin, the very rich (up to $5,000 for a dress). “I like a very sexy silhouette,” Scott explains, “and I like to feel like when you put something on, you zip yourself into it and you’re secure in there.” In Scott’s universe, nothing escapes: A dress is a snug little glove designed to hold it all in, up, together.

Hours after Scott’s presentation, she is curled up in a rambling apartment on a high floor of the Carlyle Hotel, where she stays, under an alias, when she’s in town. Scott is wearing jeans and big fuzzy slippers and a giant diamond ring (she also designs extravagant jewelry; Nicole Kidman wore her 1,400-carat diamond necklace to the Oscars this year). But fuzzy slippers notwithstanding, she is not coughing up confidences. “I’ve always been very inspired by fashion,” she says gnomically. “I’ve always been a big fan of style.”

Like many people in glamorous professions, L’Wren Scott is entirely self-made, starting with her exotic-sounding name. She’s from a small town in Utah, where a tiny dollar theater was the main event. She made her own clothes, both as an accommodation to her exceptional height and as a gesture toward the extravagant Hollywood dreams being fueled by that one movie theater. When she was 18, Scott moved to Paris, and found work as a model and as a muse to Thierry Mugler. Ten years later, with a set of connections forged through the Paris fashion network, she moved to L.A. and started working with photographer Herb Ritts. “We immediately clicked,” Scott says. She met stars like Renée Zellweger and Nicole Kidman and became their personal stylist as well—though Scott is loath to publicly admit to any relationship with a celebrity. “I just want to be known for what I do,” she insists, “not who I know.” But. She’s so much a Hollywood insider that in 2000, she was hired to “coordinate” the Oscars, offering fashion advice to stage performers. Several stars turned up that night in tight satin dresses designed by Scott. She did movie costumes, most famously for Diabolique, featuring Sharon Stone as a perfect Scott woman: lean and quite aggressively capital-S sexy.

Scott's Christian Louboutin-shod models line up.Photo: Christopher Anderson

What led Scott from a substantial but still piecemeal Hollywood existence to a cohesive, seasonal collection and an identity as A Designer was, she claims, the mere fact that she’d already started designing clothes. “I have grand ideas about things,” she says.

Scott imagines that in L.A., everyone should look glamorous all the time: to go to a premiere, sure, but to go to Whole Foods as well. When she can’t find things she considers sufficiently glamorous, she designs them herself. “I started doing it all the time,” Scott says. “I became obsessed.” Two years ago, when Scott had designed enough to make a collection, she called fifteen industry friends in Paris and invited them for blini and caviar during that city’s Fashion Week. “I felt like I was standing in front of a firing squad,” she says. “But I really wanted their opinions.” The opinion was that Barneys would like to buy it, and Maxfield, too.

Three seasons later, L’Wren Scott is gaining quite a bit of credibility for her glamazon designs; they’re still at Barneys and Maxfield, as well as Jeffrey, and online at Net-a-Porter only. Her business is tiny, like her show, but it suits her snug, zipped-up world and her A-list customers fine.

“You’re not,” she says, “going to see it everywhere.”

First Lunch, Then Fashion