Editor’s Note: Stella Tennant’s family has announced that Stella Tennant’s death was a suicide. Her family said: “Stella had been unwell for some time. So, it is a matter of our deepest sorrow and despair that she felt unable to go on, despite the love of those closest to her.” Our hearts go out to her family.
She was gaunt and beautiful in a severe, androgynous way, and for decades she was a fixture on runways and in fashion magazine spreads. Stella Tennant exuded vitality and just-watch-me attitude, which makes it especially hard to comprehend the news that she has died just a few days after her 50th birthday.
Her family announced her passing this week, with no explanation as to the cause of death. “Stella was a wonderful woman and an inspiration to us all,” her family said. “She will be greatly missed.”
Tennant, who is the granddaughter of the 11th Duke of Devonshire, Andrew Cavendish, and Deborah Mitford, is the mother of four. Her children, Marcel, Cecily, Jasmine and Iris, are now aged between 15 and 22. Though she and her husband David Lasnet were married for more than two decades, news articles report that they separated last August.
A Low-Key Life
Discovered at age 22 in 1993, Tennant has work with scores of designers and fashion houses including Alexander McQueen, Calvin Klein, Jean Paul Gaultier and Burberry. She had exceptional longevity in an industry known to favor the next young thing. The last time she walked the runway was during the Valentino Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2020 show as part of Paris Fashion Week in January. (Top photo is of Tennant at a runway show in 2019.)
Despite her stardom, Tennant and Lasnet lived far from the spotlight, raising their children in an 18th-century manor house in rural Scotland where they would swim in rivers, grow vegetables and walk in the hills.
“By the flighty and superficial standards of her industry, she seemed a beacon of substance: avoiding the party circuit, eschewing celebrity culture and refusing to have anything much to do with such social media fripperies as Instagram,” wrote Guy Adams in London’s Daily Mail.
The Age Thing
Even though she didn’t spend time hovering in the bright lights, she did seem to be concerned about how long she could keep working. A neighbor who had talked to her recently told the Daily Mail that Tennant feared that once runway shows could start again after COVID, she would be too old to take part.
Still, she wasn’t known for dressing the part of a fashion star in her private life. She once claimed to prefer green wellies to spikey-heeled Manolos. Recently, she admitted that she was reusing clothes she has had since the 90s and only buying about five new items a year.
“At my age I think it’s probably quite normal you’re not that interested in consuming, [and not] loving shopping as much as when you’re much younger. We all need to think a little bit harder.”
In one of her final interviews, Tennant talked about growing old gracefully and reported that she had stopped dyeing her gray hair.
‘”I’m not really pursuing my modelling in the same way. If it wants to pursue me, that’s a different thing, but me as I am. I’m not going to dye my hair… I don’t want to pretend to be something that I’m not,” she said.
“I’m incredibly glad to be where I am. I’ve got my children, my husband, work I enjoy… I mean, what else is there really?” We sincerely wish that she could have held on to that feeling.