PARISCatherine Alain-Bernard, a longstanding figure on the fashion scene here, died  Jan. 1 from cancer at the age of 71, her sister confirmed to WWD.

Alain-Bernard was tapped as editor in chief of the French fashion magazine Depeche Mode at 28, before becoming editor in chief for fashion of Elle France from 1977 to 1981. She returned to Elle from 1984 to 1991 following a stint at Figaro Madame. She subsequently returned to Depeche Mode before the magazine went out of business.

Alain-Bernard has been credited with a modern approach to fashion, the force behind the first issue dedicated to designers at Elle, as well the first men’s fashion special.

“She was tall, physically and morally,” said Christian Lacroix. “That why we called her in the field Catherine the Great, like Catherine of Russia. She had a strong personality, a great sense of humor and enthusiasm…She did the house the great honor of putting a piece from the first couture collection in July 1987 on Linda Evangelista on the cover of the couture winter 1987-88 issue. The cover was very strong and much talked about.”

Jean-Charles de Castelbajac recalled going to Depeche Mode’s office on Rue de Téhéran as a young designers in the early Seventies to present his sketches in hopes of having them published. “It was a visionary magazine that published the best fashion illustrations,” he said.

After Alain-Bernard joined Elle, she featured Castelbajac’s designs including on covers. She was “very linked to design in general and had a visionary approach to fashion,” de Castelbajac noted.

“She was a tall woman with allure, always wearing silk scarves,” said Sylvie Yeu, a Paris-based editor who worked with Alain-Bernard at Elle and Depeche Mode. For example, in the Seventies, she was known to pair a Chanel jacket with a white T-shirt and a pair of jeans, which was completely unseen at the time, according to Yeu.

Yeu said Alain-Bernard asked designers including Lacroix, Karl Lagerfeld and Jean Paul Gaultier to style looks with pieces coming from mail-order catalogues for a fashion series for Elle. “This was way before the era of designers’ collaborations,” Yeu noted.

The members of the Fédération Française de la Couture, du Prêt à Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode expressed their condolences in a statement.

A funeral is scheduled for Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. CET at Paris’ Saint-Philippe-du-Roule church.

Alain-Bernard is survived by a daughter, Marine Soimaud, and a son, Vincent John Soimaud.

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