Stella Tennant, one of the most respected models of her generation, has died suddenly five days after her 50th birthday.
Scottish-born Tennant, who came from aristocratic roots to forge a much admired career as a runway model for designers such as Gianni Versace and Alexander McQueen, was found dead at her home on Tuesday.
The granddaughter of the 11th Duke of Devonshire, Andrew Cavendish, and Deborah Mitford, she rose to fame in the 1990s, and was among the models picked to represent the British fashion industry during the closing ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, on the final day of the London 2012 Olympics.
In August it was revealed that Tennant had separated from her husband David Lasnet after 21 years of marriage.
Police said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding her death.
A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Officers were called to an address in Duns, Scottish Borders, 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.”
In a statement, her family said: “It is with great sadness we announce the sudden death of Stella Tennant on 22nd December 2020.
“Stella was a wonderful woman and an inspiration to us all. She will be greatly missed.”
Fashion designer Stella McCartney paid an emotional tribute to Tennant, writing: “My darling Stella, I f****** 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.”
Tennant married French-born photographer Mr Lasnet in the small parish church of Oxnam in the Scottish Borders in 1999. They had four children together, now aged between 15 and 22.
Her modelling career took off after her 5ft 11 frame and chiselled features caught the attention of photographers Steven Meisel and Bruce Weber.
By 1993, at the age of 23, she began appearing in industry ‘bibles’, such as French, British and Italian Vogue as well as Harper’s Bazaar.
In the late 90s, Karl Lagerfeld announced Tennant as the new face of Chanel, with an exclusive modelling contract, and she became a muse for the fashion designer, which he attributed to her resemblance to Coco Chanel.
Tennant also appeared in numerous advertising campaigns, including Calvin Klein, Chanel, Hermes, and Burberry.
Tennant retired from the world of fashion in 1998, after becoming pregnant with her first child, but returned later on a part-time basis.
In June 2012, she was inducted as Model of the Year in the Scottish Fashion Awards Hall of Fame.
In recent years Tennant had enthusiastically taken up campaigning to promote the use of less energy and a reduction in the environmental impact of fashion.
She said last year: “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.”
Tennant said at the time that she was reusing clothes she had bought in the 1990s and admitted to 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,” she said.