What comes first? ‘Fashion designer’ or ‘Mick Jagger’s girlfriend?’


Singer Mick Jagger and designer L’Wren Scott arrive at the 2006 Vanity Fair Oscar Party. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)

When news outlets identified designer L’Wren Scott as “Mick Jagger’s girlfriend,” were they being sexist? Lazy? Or were they simply identifying her for the benefit of those unversed in high fashion?

Scott was found dead in her Manhattan apartment Monday morning by her assistant. Reports have said she tied a scarf around her neck – one of her own designs – and tied the other to the handle of a French door.

The headlines ranged from blaring to spare and muted. “BREAKING: @lwrenscott, model, designer, @mickjagger’s girlfriend, found hanging dead at apartment,” the New York Daily News tweeted.

The New York Times Style section, which would have been eminently aware of Scott’s profile as a New York designer, chose to tweet “Mick Jagger’s Girlfriend Found Dead, Official Says.” The Post retweeted a tweet from television critic Hank Stuever, linking to an article by fashion critic Robin Givhan. The Los Angeles Times tweeted, “L’Wren Scott, fashion designer, found dead in New York.”

Many took to Twitter to express their dismay over headlines and tweets that erased Scott’s identity as a designer, or put primary focus on her relationship with Jagger.

 

 

 


Scott took great pains to establish herself as a model, costume designer, stylist, and fashion designer, independent of her relationship with the Rolling Stones frontman, whom she’d dated since 2001. And with good reason: it was a requirement if she wanted to be taken seriously by her peers in the fashion world.

Givhan wrote:

Seventh Avenue loves dressing stars; it loves using them to pitch products. But do not let some boldface name declare herself a designer. For that, the punishment is derision, suspicion and an enormous helping of disdain.

Scott had the worst kind of fame. Hers was reflected glory: She was Mick Jagger’s girlfriend.

If women, even women with their own careers, are married to much more famous men, are they always destined to be known as someone’s wife? Is it appropriate, in a news story, to call Georgina Chapman, “wife of Hollywood mega-producer Harvey Weinstein,” when you could refer to her as “co-founder of Marchesa,” an incredibly successful fashion line? This isn’t a new phenomenon. A 2013 report by the Women’s Media Center examining obituaries of women found that “in 1972, a typical female obit was two paragraphs, and spoke not of the deceased’s accomplishments but of those of her husband and sons.”

Tuesday night, the Associated Press published a list in connection with Scott’s death: “Mick Jagger’s past wives and girlfriends.”

In 2013 interview with the London Times, Scott made her position clear.

“I don’t court that life. I’d rather be a worker bee,” she said. “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.”

 

RELATED: When a fashion company is underwater, the options are few

UPDATE: The Rolling Stones have canceled their Perth, Australia tour date, which they would have played Wednesday.

Soraya Nadia McDonald covers arts, entertainment and culture for the Washington Post with a focus on race and gender issues.
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