Iconic British model Stella Tennant has died, five days after her 50th birthday on December 17. Police sources have confirmed that the death is not being treated as suspicious.
Her family said in a statement: “It is with great sadness we announce the sudden death of Stella Tennant on 22 December 2020.
“Stella was a wonderful woman and an inspiration to us all. She will be greatly missed.”
“Her family ask for their privacy to be respected. Arrangements for a memorial service will be announced at a later date.”
A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Officers were called to an address in Duns around 11.30am on Tuesday, 22 December, following the sudden death of a 50-year-old woman. Her next of kin have been made aware. There are no suspicious circumstances and a report will be submitted to the procurator fiscal.”
Tennant, the granddaughter of Deborah Mitford and Andrew Cavendish, the 11th Duke of Devonshire, began her career as a model after being scouted by photographer Steven Meisel for her first British Vogue shoot in 1993.
Because she was wearing a nose ring, that initial grunge-influenced photoshoot was considered controversial at the time and kickstarted Tennant’s long fashion career. However, Tennant was unsure about the industry at first and expressed further doubts along the way.
“After the Vogue shoot, he [Meisel] asked me to go to Paris and shoot a Versace campaign,” she told the Evening Standard in 2016.
“Suddenly, it was a proper modelling job. And I didn’t really know if I wanted to open the door and see what was inside. You have an idea of what fashion is about, but I’d been at art school.
I didn’t know if I wanted to be objectified. I thought it was a big, shallow world and I wasn’t really sure if I liked the look of it.”
Tributes to Tennant have been flooding in from the fashion industry and beyond since the news of her death broke. Stella McCartney wrote on Instagram: “My darling Stella, I f*****g love you and will miss you so, so terribly. What sad, horrific news to end this already shocking year! My heart goes out to your stunning family who must be in such undeserving pain. I am speechless…
Rest in peace, you inspiring woman. Your soul and inner beauty exceeded the external perfection, Stella. May you ride high above us all on the most perfect horse, eternally in peace. x Stella.”
“So saddened to hear the devastating news about Stella Tennant. She was an incredible talent and someone I had so much admiration and respect for,” Victoria Beckham said in an Instagram post.
“This photo is of her opening my first show back at London Fashion Week in 2018, to celebrate my 10th anniversary. It was a huge privilege to have her there and meant so much to me, I just loved everything about her. My thoughts are with her family.”
In the 90s, Lagerfeld made Tennant the face of Chanel and put her on an exclusive modelling contract. Sources close to Lagerfeld claimed that Tennant reminded the designer of Coco Chanel.
Towards the end of the decade, Tennant married David Lasnet. The pair met on a shoot in New York, during which Lasnet was assisting the photographer. They would have four children (Marcel, Cecily, Jasmine and Iris) together before splitting earlier in 2020.
Tennant’s last British Vogue cover was in 2018, which was shot by Meisel. She had originally retired from the catwalk in 1998 after falling pregnant with her first child but she would later return. During her career, Tennant also worked passionately on campaigns to promote using less energy and reduce the environmental impact of fast fashion.
“It’s going to take us a long time to change our habits, but I think that this is so obviously a step in the right direction,” she told The Guardian last year.
“Truly heartbroken at the news of the loss of Stella Tennant. She was a kind and gentle woman,” Moschino creative director Jeremy Scott wrote in tribute.
“I will never forget seeing her backstage her first season modelling, I was still in school in New York and snuck in backstage to a show and saw her all by herself reading a book, her little black haircut with her choppy bangs hovering just above her eyes which were rimmed dark with kohl. And her septum piercing, a hoop ring with one ball. I was enamoured!
“Tall, elegant and refined like a gazelle then self-style into a punk! I was too shy to speak to her that day and could only admire her from afar but I recounted the story to her many years later when I had the great, good fortune to have her in my first Moschino campaign shot by Steven Meisel,” he said.
“She was so amused and recalled that first season modelling and how shy she was so she would always sit alone and read a book. Now, many years later, it is us who will read about you in the books of fashion history. Rest in peace sweet Stella.”