John Fairchild: Journalist who transformed 'Women's Wear Daily' while skewering the great and good of the fashion world

 

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The Independent Online

John Fairchild took Women’s Wear Daily from a dry fashion trade publication to an international industry force. Fairchild headed his family’s publishing business, Fairchild Publications, for more than 30 years, including a long stint as the tyrannical editor-in-chief of WWD and founding chief of W magazine.

The outspoken Fairchild started at Women’s Wear in 1960, summoned from his reporter’s job in Paris by his father, Louis Fairchild, who headed the company at the time. The son was credited with not only transforming WWD but also the fashion industry itself, bringing designers out of the shadows of ateliers and making them celebrities in their own right. Among those he helped propel were Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta and a young Yves Saint Laurent.

The Fairchilds had other publications, daily and weekly trade papers ranging from fashion to electronics. Other titles included Jane and Details magazines.

Fairchild wrote occasionally after he took over, mostly using the pen name Louise J Esterhazy in WWD and W. It was a byline he first created in the early 1970s and he used to skewer the world, from fashion designers to social climbers. In just one 1995 column he wrote of Hillary Clinton’s “hairdo roulette,” Barbara Bush’s “WASPy righteousness,” “middle-aged men who always wear faded blue jeans” and “children on airplanes ... [who] should be shipped like freight.”

He unabashedly turned on friends, insisting at one time that the late de la Renta had added “de la” to his name, a rumour the designer vehemently denied. But he also had many admirers. “It is difficult at this most democratic moment in the history of fashion journalism to understand the power John Fairchild wielded and the fear he commanded,” Vogue’s Anna Wintour said in a statement. “Designers literally quivered in his wake. I remember him, however, as a delightful and wickedly funny lunch companion, a devoted husband and father, and an unrepentant Anglophile who loved to discuss all things English. I will miss him.”

Fairchild wrote several books, while among his accolades was the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s lifetime recognition award in 1997. The Fairchild holdings, including Women’s Wear, have changed hands over the years. Last autumn Condé Nast sold WWD to Penske Media, though Fairchild remained a contributing editor.

John Burr Fairchild, journalist: born Newark, New Jersey 6 March 1927; married Jill (one daughter, three sons); died 27 February 2015.

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