Women’s Wear Daily

Image credit: Schmausschmaus

From WWD, 1956

Known as the fashion bible, Women’s Wear Daily recently made the decision to go to a weekly all-digital format. While we say goodbye to its paper publication, let’s get to know this 105 year old staple. Founded by Edmund Fairchild in the Summer of 1910, WWD built its reputation as a one stop shop for style through expert reporting and the support of industry advertisers (such as the Philadelphia department store Wanamaker’s, which took a page from Selfridge’s book).

Edmund knew that this combination of writing and promotion would be a recipe for success because WWD wasn’t his first attempt at a magazine. Twenty years earlier he created the Daily News Record. DNR focused on the men’s clothing industry and became incredibly popular when Edmund and his brother handed out samples at the Chicago’s World Fair in 1893. This sample featured an article on women’s clothing and people clamored for more female-centric content. The response: WWD. Edmund started the newspaper as a quarterly issue, offered at a mere fifty cents a year. Meant as a supplement, it quickly exceeded all expectations. Within the first thirty days WWD proved so popular it went to daily publication. For a soap guy, Edmund had some pretty great magazine instincts. I mean, can you imagine that kind of early triumph as an entrepreneur at the turn of the century – all without social media’s viral influence?

Journalists were a big part of Edmund’s master plan and Edith Rosenbaum Russell was the shining star. She was their gal on the front lines, becoming the first Paris correspondent. Edith didn’t just write about fashion – she lived it. She was a freelance fashion buyer, an illustrator, a stylist with famous clientele, and an integral part of the Paris fashion scene. Edith started her career in the industry as a saleswoman for a French couture house, which gave her the kind of unique perspective WWD’s readers enjoyed. Her relationships with designers allowed her to be up to speed on the latest trends and looks coming out of the fashion capital. Naturally being around that much creativity had an effect and by the late 1910s Edith began designing and marketing her own collections. Oh yeah and did I mention she also survived the Titanic??

Image credit: Randy Bryan Bigham

Edith in her heyday as a stylist

Over the next few decades the magazine rolled along, becoming a greater resource for the American fashion and garment industry and a proving ground for young talent. By mid-century WWD’s influence reached beyond its front porch. Around this time John Fairchild took over the publication and offered a fresh approach. John wasn’t just interested in talking about the clothing – he wanted to talk about the people behind these looks. Who were these designers? What inspired them? The idea of designer as artist sprang to life within WWD’s pages. This zest for painting an intimate picture bred some epic feuds. Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, and Oscar de la Renta all tangled with the legend of John Fairchild at one point in time. All that conflict fueled intrigue, buzz, and content – thrusting WWD onto a grander stage. By 1972, John left to establish W magazine. Yet his legacy at Women’s Wear Daily lived on in the energetic musings about the future of fashion. WWD reminds us to be captivated fashion, to drink it in, and not let it become static. Clothing is more than a covering – it’s an expression of your personality and I know all of us vintage lovers can appreciate that perspective! So three cheers to WWD’s latest leap. Tell me – what vintage publications do you wish were still up and running?

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