John B. Fairchild, former publisher and editor, died on Feb. 27 in his Manhattan home. The 87-year-old was one of the most powerful and famous individuals in fashion. He was the editor of Women’s Wear Daily and helped found W Magazine. Known for his harsh but honest criticisms of collections, he would give top designers grades. But most importantly, he inspired those in the fashion industry to strive for their greatest.
Fairchild was at the forefront of celebrity news well before Page Six and was well-attuned to not only fashion, but the goings-on of New York City. He reformed Women’s Wear Daily into a paper that not only covered the latest trends, but also highlighted high-society gossip. He knew how to pull in readers and created a publication that was more than just talk of new trends. He was a creative visionary.
Without Fairchild’s ingenuity, designers such as Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, and Yves Saint Laurent may not be as well known as they are today. Under Fairchild’s tenure, their careers were catapulted into the spotlight, becoming both revered names.
Simultaneously, he would also leave designers on edge. After trashing the collections of Cristobal Balenciaga and Hubert de Givenchy in print, he might have made an enemy or two. This would not stop him from reporting, even when Balenciaga banned him from shows. He was innovative and relentless, sending photographers to rooftops to photograph shows, or dressing them up so they could sneak in.
He created platforms for designers and icons to thrive in the world of fashion. The midi-skirt became a trend because he said so and he was also the person to foreshadow it would replace mini-skirts. Fairchild was extremely conscious of the modern woman, and he knew how to wield his power to transform looks from the runway to mainstream fashion for the consumer. His power also extended to nicknames, including dubbing Calvin Klein “Calvin Clean” and Jacqueline Kennedy being known as Jackie O.
Edward Nardoza is the current Editor-In-Chief of Women’s Wear Daily and the Associate Editorial Director of Fairchild Fashion Media. Before his passing, Fairchild was still a contributing editor and lended his invaluable insight. Though the loss the fashion industry has suffered is great, there is still a strong belief that Women’s Wear Daily will always embody the empire that Fairchild built: one that serves fashion, the consumer, the socialite, and the critic.
Grace Halio is a contributing writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org