Stella Tennant made her name in modeling by eschewing the traditionally feminine aesthetics that made stars out of her contemporaries. With her blunt pixie cut and piercing stare, she was the darling of ’90s fashion.
Tennant, who maintained her edge throughout her lengthy career in fashion, died this week at age 50, Vogue reported. Tennant’s family, including her husband, David Lasnet, and their four children, confirmed the news in a statement to the fashion outlet.
“It is with great sadness we announce the sudden death of Stella Tennant on 22 December 2020,” the statement read. “Stella was a wonderful woman and an inspiration to us all. She will be greatly missed.”
Tennant was a gifted model with a punkier look than fellow British supermodels Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell. Her hair was often cut short and spiky, and you’d rarely catch her crack a smile in the pages of Vogue.
For all the edge she brought to editorial fashion, designers adored her. She was a muse to fashion luminaries like Helmut Lang, whose shows she described among her favorites to walk in, and the late Karl Lagerfeld when he headed Chanel. She continued to appear on runways until early this year, when she walked for Valentino for Paris Fashion Week.
Born to UK aristocrats and raised on a sheep farm in Scotland, Tennant got into modeling “accidentally,” she told British Vogue in 2018. While many models of her era were discovered by scouts as teens, Tennant was still submitting photos to casting agents in her early 20s. She’d graduated from art school and planned to pursue sculpture if modeling didn’t take off.
A 1993 British Vogue feature called “London Girls” proved to be her big break. Tennant, her eyes ringed by heavy black eyeliner, wore an Alexander McQueen dress and a subversive septum piercing. Surrounded by experienced models, the 22-year-old was asked at the shoot to appear in an ad for Versace.
Soon, she was appearing in as many as 75 runway shows a season, she said in a 2018 interview. She tired of fashion’s frenetic pace when she and her then-husband decided to have children.
“I’ve given it everything, all my energy and time, and now we’re going to go off and have a family together,” she told fashion publication the Document Journal in 2018. “And I thought that was me signing out.”
When fashion magazines started to prefer a more traditionally glamorous look for models in the 2000s, Tennant said she felt her spotlight was shrinking.
“The agency didn’t really know what to do with me,” she remembered. “I thought, ‘Well, that’s not a surprise. I’ve had my little moment, and fashion’s moved on, and I’ll be moving along, too.'”
Tennant continued to model, albeit less frequently than she did in her 20s. On occasion, some of her four children would appear in shoots with her, including in 2019, when she and her daughter Iris starred in an ad encouraging UK residents to shop second hand. (Tennant devoted much of her time to promoting sustainable causes.)
Perhaps her most memorable moment of the last decade came in 2012, when she and fellow British supermodels strutted in the Closing Ceremony of the London Summer Olympics. Alongside Moss, Campbell and more, Tennant donned a Christopher Kane suit — the only woman among them not in a dress. Her hair was dyed black and cut in the style of a jagged mullet. Her edge had only gotten sharper.
The fashion world mourns
Tennant’s frequent costars and collaborators mourned her passing online.
Campbell, in an Instagram post, called Tennant “a class act in every way.”
“When we would see each other always picked up from where we left off,” she wrote. “Effortless and the epitome of Grace, even when you would sit in a corner doing your needle point.
On Twitter, Versace said Tennant had been the muse of late house founder Gianni for many years and a “friend of the family.”
Nina Garcia, Elle editor-in-chief and “Project Runway” judge, said Tennant “mixed fragility and an innate elegance with an androgynous look” that inspired scores of designers.
With Tennant’s death, fashion has lost one of its favorite nonconformists.