In Memoriam: WWD’s Mr. Fairchild
Tory Daily remembers a fashion legend.
In 1960, John B. Fairchild returned to New York from Paris to take over the helm of his family business. A seemingly unlikely fashion charlatan, he would ultimately change the fashion industry by taking a small, mousy newspaper, Women’s Wear Daily, and transforming it into a must-read, from fashion’s main artery on Seventh Avenue to Paris’ chic Rue Cambon and back to Wall Street. Even, depending on who’s in the office, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He was known for being a little naughty, a little controversial, for bringing some excitement into the industry. He also brought the designer — most notably Yves Saint Laurent — out from behind the curtain and into the spotlight, effectively introducing the notion of the celebrity designer. He loved nicknames and coined many — Jackie O, the Beautiful People, Chic Savages, hotpants… All of which he celebrated in the pages of WWD and its sister publication W magazine, which he launched in 1972. He liked a little tension, often letting designers know when he wasn’t happy with them; there were legendary tiffs with Bill Blass, Giorgio Armani and more. But he could spot great talent and foster it, hiring Bill Cunningham, André Leon Talley and Ben Brantley, among others. Early this morning, Mr. Fairchild passed away, fittingly, during the fashion shows. “You have to be controversial in fashion because, basically, it’s a bunch of blah blah. Controversy makes it lively,” he told WWD in 2010.
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