NEW YORK — Vivian Infantino, the longtime fashion director of WWD’s sister publication, Footwear News, who helped boost the careers of everyone from Manolo Blahnik to Kenneth Cole, died early Saturday morning of cancer.

A wake will be held today from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at McLaughlin & Sons at 9620 Third Avenue in Brooklyn. The funeral will be Wednesday at 10 a.m. at St. Anselms at 356 82nd Street in Brooklyn.

Infantino was one of the longest-serving employees of Fairchild Publications, having joined the company in 1949 after graduating from the College of St. Elizabeth in Morristown, N.J. She served as assistant fashion and children’s editor in the Fifties, becoming the weekly newspaper’s fashion editor in the Sixties, a position she would hold for more than 30 years. In 1996, Infantino retired from full-time work and became FN’s fashion director at large.

During her tenure, Infantino discovered dozens of new designers and often played a role in the trends that wound up on store floors. One such designer was Kenneth Cole, who in his 2003 book, “Footnotes,” credited Infantino for discovering him.

“In 1976, espadrilles were one of the hottest trends; the other was a ‘negative-heel’ shoe called an Earth Shoe,” he wrote. “I took the negative-heel concept, mixed the sole with jute and the result was a round-toed shoe and sandal with a rope base that I called Earthpadrilles. Within a week they were featured on the cover of the industry’s leading trade publication, Footwear News magazine.”

Added Cole: “The article by Vivian Infantino even called me an up-and-coming ‘designer.’”

But it was her column, “Viewpoints,” starting in the Sixties, that cemented her position in the industry. From her platform, she spotted such new footwear talents as Stuart Weitzman, Donald J Pliner and Manolo Blahnik. Infantino combed every corner of the globe to find new designers and stores, from the streets of New York to the alleys of Milan, with a seemingly endless energy, wry humor and sense of curiosity that earned her the respect of all the designers she covered. Infantino knew all the major footwear designers of the last 50 years — from the late royal shoemaker Sir Edward Rayne to the effervescent Blahnik or Roger Vivier — and would probe them with questions while not hesitating to offer criticism of their designs or business strategies. Often on her trips to Europe, she would stop to recover at her cottage in the Irish countryside that overlooked a pond and had a wild garden she adored.Infantino won a Fashion Footwear Association of New York award in 1981 for serving as “a guiding light to many young fashion designers,” said FFANY’s then-president, Dick Jacobsen. She was also initiated into FN’s own Hall of Fame in 1997. In recognition of her lifelong passion for the footwear industry, she was tapped last year for FFANY’s Executive Women’s Committee alongside some of the most prestigious buyers in the country.

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