Legendary British Model Stella Tennant Has Died


The model and designer Stella Tennant has died suddenly at the age of 50, according to a statement released by her family. “It is with great sadness we announce the sudden death of Stella Tennant on 22 December 2020,” it read.

“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 regular in the pages and on the cover of British Vogue, Tennant last appeared on the cover of the December 2018 issue, strikingly handsome as always in a dramatic blue Valentino evening gown. Hailed an “industry legend” by editor-in-chief Edward Enninful, having forged a new path in recent years as a designer at Holland & Holland, she was chosen to appear alongside three other new faces to mark 25 years to the month since her first appearance in the magazine, both photographed by Steven Meisel.

In an interview she gave to the magazine to accompany the cover story, she said: “Some of my fondest memories are of working with British Vogue through the years. There was my cover story with Corinne Day, just after I gave birth to my daughter – when I brought my childhood nanny down from the [Scottish] Borders with me to take care of the baby. There was the shoot with my grandmother Debo, the Duchess of Devonshire, at Chatsworth, the ultimate family portrait, and the Fashion’s Force cover from January 2002 – a sort of yearbook for the modelling world at the time. (A belated confession: my schedule was so hectic at that point that I missed the actual day and had to be Photoshopped in later.)”

Tennant on the December 2018 issue of British Vogue, 25 years to the month since she first appeared in the magazine.
© Steven Meisel

Tennant began her modelling career “pretty much by accident”, as she herself put it, in 1993. Having just wound up a sculpture degree at Winchester School of Art, her first modelling job was at the age of 22 for the December 1993 issue of British Vogue. “A friend of mine happened to know Plum Sykes, then an assistant at the magazine, and Plum was working with Isabella Blow on a portfolio of English roses with an edge,” she recalled.

Tennant photographed for her first British Vogue shoot by Steven Meisel, for the December 1993 issue.
© Steven Meisel

Tennant had just had her septum pierced, and boasted the aristocratic lineage to boot. The resulting shoot, “Anglo-Saxon Attitude”, photographed by Steven Meisel, launched her career. “At that point, I had no real idea who Steven was,” she said. A week later, she was shooting a Versace campaign in Paris – and her career exploded. “I turned up and found Linda Evangelista, Shalom Harlow, and Kristen McMenamy in the studio. I cannot tell you how intimidating it was! Steven photographed me standing there while Linda and Kristen danced around me because I was too nervous to move,” she said. Those images then became the cover choices for Italian Vogue. “And my life changed overnight.” She went on to work with the most influential photographers of the century, including Paolo Roversi, Mario Testino, David Sims, Arthur Elgort and Tim Walker.

“The first time I met her, I was fashion director at i-D magazine, so I must have been 18 or 19,” recalls Edward Enninful. “I got a call from Select Model Management saying they’d taken on this model who was a punk, and that I should meet her. At the time I was on crutches and couldn’t leave my house, so she came to my home in London for a casting. She had a nose ring at the time, which was very unusual – she reminded me of Isabelle Adjani in the film Subway. I was blown away by this aristocratic punk.

Tennant wearing Valentino in the December 2018 issue of British Vogue.
© Steven Meisel

“Our careers took off at the same time, and we worked on many fashion stories and covers together over the years. She was always so stylish, so together, so kind, so polite. At one time, she was every designer’s muse – she was the ultimate chameleon, one moment a down-town Brit, next, a stunning debutante. She went on to have four children and was a fantastic mother – family always came first. She worked so hard to care for her family, run an estate, keep up her modelling, before her second career came, designing at Holland & Holland.

“She is very much a British Vogue icon – the definition of British style, with a tomboyish look, eclectic taste and an incredible ability to inject cool into everything she wore. I last saw her in Paris, in February, and we had a laugh together, as always. I am greatly saddened by her loss – she is utterly irreplaceable.”

From British Vogue

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