The end of this week marks the unavoidable start of New York Fashion Week, which can only mean that in a few days this city will be inundated with designers, editors, bloggers, models, opinions, booze, outfits months in the making, calculated stares, and of course an insurmountable number of street-style photographers to document every painstaking angle. In advance of all this buzz-word and flash bulb filled hype that is sure to follow in the days to come, I decided to dedicate this week to some of the forefathers of this industry, men who started their careers during simpler times, and who probably could never have predicted the impact their work would have.
It’s next to impossible to begin any discussion about fashion journalism without mentioning Condé Nast. It’s a name that’s repeated countless times everyday throughout the mediascape thanks to that corporation’s impressive publication list, yet behind that name (which, let’s be honest is one helluva name) was a mogul who ushered in the modern era of magazine publishing. Condé Montrose Nast was born in New York City in 1873, his father was a failed entrepreneur, but his mother was the daughter of a prominent St. Louis banker so with his father largely out of the picture, Nast spent his childhood out in Missouri.
As a young adult, Nast tried his hand at the law, but soon realized it wasn’t the field for him and he went to work for his college classmate at Collier’s Weekly, an investigative news magazine. Throughout the next decade, Nast turned Collier’s into a goldmine and by 1909 he had made enough to buy his own publication, picking up a fledgling New York society magazine by the name of Vogue. Following Vogue, Nast acquired Home & Garden, and then Vanity Fair, building up a cache of some of the country’s best up and coming magazines. It was Nast who took this group of rising publications over the top, introducing faster and higher quality printing, full color spreads, and innovations in layout and typography. Even during the Great Depression, Nast steered his periodicals to great financial and creative success, along the way becoming a fixture of the New York social scene, just like the men and women that graced the pages of his magazines. He had a thirty-room penthouse on Park Avenue, could be seen at lavish parties, and topped it all off with an exceptional wardrobe. Nast passed away in 1942, but his company forged on and thanks to him we have the concept of a modern fashion magazine with an equally recognizable editor at the helm, setting the tone for the way we view our favorite publications today, over a century later.