“It is with great sadness we announce the sudden death of Stella Tennant on 22nd December 2020,” the family of the model said in a statement issued to The Sun. Stella, who turned 50 on Dec. 17, was a “wonderful woman and inspiration to us all. She will be greatly missed. Her family asks for their privacy to be respected. Arrangements for a memorial service will be announced at a later date.” The news of Stella’s passing was met with grief from the fashion world.
“My darling Stella, I f-cking love you and will miss you so, so terribly,” tweeted designer Stella McCartney, who also included a black-and-white photo of her besides the late model. “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. x Stella.” The official Twitter account for Versace added that they were “mourning the death of #StellaTennant. Stella was Gianni Versace’s muse for many years and a friend of the family. We will miss you forever, Stella. Rest In Peace.”
“I am deeply saddened to hear about the loss of the legendary supermodel #stellatennant,” designer Zac Posen posted on Instagram. “Stella and her elegant punk look completely changed the look of fashion in the late ’90s. She contributed to and inspired so many in the industry and world. I had the great pleasure of knowing Stella when I was just starting out as a teenager in NYC, she was so kind and lovely with a great sense of humor. Later, I was lucky enough to have Stella in one of my early fashion shows.” As the fashion world continues to grieve the loss, here’s what you need to know about Stella.
1. She was born into a family of aristocrats. Stella Tennant was born on Dec. 17, 1970, to The Honorable Tobias William Tennant, son of the second Baron Glenconner, and Lady Emma Cavendish. Stella’s grandfather was the eleventh Duke of Devonshire.
2. Stella began modeling in the early 1990s. Stella wound up on the runway “pretty much by accident,” according to British Vogue. She had gone to the Winchester School of art to study sculpture and landed her first modeling job at age 22 in the December 1993 issue of British Vogue. “A friend of mine happened to know [fashion writer] 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. Stella had a septum piercing, which was considered edgy at the time, and being 5’11 and gorgeous made her the perfect subject for the shoot.
At that point, I had no real idea who Steven [Meisel, fashion photographer] 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. And my life changed overnight.”
3. Stella was a muse for many. In addition to being a source of inspiration for Gianna Versace, Stella was a muse to Karl Lagerfeld. Shortly after her appearance in Italian Vogue, Karl signed Stella to be the new face of Chanel. She would appear in a number of runways, collections, and ad campaigns, per WWD, including its 2017 cruise collection.
4. She was involved in environmental activism. Stella founded the Second Hand September campaign, per The Guardian. The event aimed to raise awareness of the fashion industry’s environmental impact and inspire people to purchase second-hand clothing in September. “In that month, you might just think a bit differently about how you would normally shop … [it is] a period of time to consider what you’re buying and what you’re consuming and why: what do you really want; what do you really need?”
5. She leaves behind a husband and four children. Stella Tennant married David Lasnet, a French photographer turned osteopath, in 1999. After 21 years of marriage, the couple split in early 2020, per The Sun. The couple had four children together: Iris, 15, Jasmine, 17, Cecily, 20, and Marcel, 22.