June Weir, a former fashion editor at WWD and W, who went on to become vice president and associate publisher of both publications, died Thursday at age 86 after a long illness.
Born in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1928, the daughter of Scottish immigrants Janet and John Weir, a mason in the steel mills, June Weir graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University. After moving to New York and working as an assistant buyer at Macy’s, she began a career in fashion journalism at WWD in 1954.
Colleagues noted that she could be both tough and tender. “June and I started working together in 1961, when I reported on the business of Seventh Avenue and June covered the designers and reviewed the collections,” said former WWD managing editor Mort Sheinman. “We remained friends ever since. She was a consummate pro — meticulous, thorough, hardworking, met her deadlines, and wonderfully encouraging to me when I was still discovering what the garment business was all about. Her demeanor was always ladylike and very, very proper, but she had the soul of a street reporter and had no trouble spotting the frauds and the phonies who tried to influence her coverage. I liked her, I learned from her and I’m sorry she’s gone.”
The designer Jacques Tiffeau, in fact, once called her, “a nun with a knife in both pockets.”
As fashion editor of WWD, she championed the “Bonnie and Clyde” look, based on Faye Dunaway’s costumes in the 1967 Arthur Penn film. “I saw Faye Dunaway in those soft sweaters and long skirts and cunning little berets, and I thought that was one of the greatest things I’d ever seen,” she told Time magazine in 1970. She also promoted the midi, although neither look caught on quite the way legendary editorial director John Fairchild and she had hoped they would.
In WWD’s 90th anniversary issue, Weir, who — along with other former employees — described her time at WWD, told two amusing stories. “I took a trip to Brazil in the Seventies,” she recalled. “It was on that trip that I discovered ‘The String.’ I was on the beaches of Ipanema, and I had a sports photographer who was Brazilian. We didn’t have to get too close to the girls if they didn’t want to be photographed. What we got was terrific. I showed these to John [Fairchild] and said, ‘They’re bra tops and just little bits of fabric held together with strings.’ ‘That’s it,’ he said. ‘We’re going to call it ‘The String.”
“It hit the front pages of Women’s Wear, and it was an overnight sensation,” she continued.
Weir also recalled a moment when WWD was following Jacqueline Kennedy in Mexico after the assassination of her husband, and Rose Kennedy called to complain about it, saying she didn’t want John F. Kennedy Jr. and Caroline to read things about their mother. [Publisher] James Brady promised to call off the coverage if she [Rose Kennedy] gave WWD the first interview. “We did the interview by telephone, while Bobby Kennedy was campaigning in Indiana. We talked about the campaign, and that the Kennedys were using a private plane to take him around, and she said, ‘After all, it’s our money.’ I wrote the story, and the next day it appeared on the front page of Women’s Wear. We were having our morning meeting in John’s office, when someone called and said, ‘June, there’s a telephone call for you from Hyannis Port.’
“She said, ‘This is Rose Kennedy. Now listen, we’ve been talking about that story I did with you. The family really thinks it’s not right to say anything about the money.’
“‘It’s already in today’s paper,’ I said. ‘It’s what?!’ she said. ‘It’s a daily newspaper,’ I said. Dead silence. ‘Read it to me,’ she said, ‘I never should have said that.’ And I said, ‘But Mrs. Kennedy, it is your money.’ She said, ‘You don’t understand, the political people will go after it.’
“That afternoon it was all over the papers and wire services. It was in the heat of the campaign. It just really became a major thing. In her autobiography, Rose Kennedy said that the only mistake she ever made talking to the press was when she was talking to Women’s Wear Daily.”
After her distinguished career at Fairchild Publications, Weir later became Vogue’s fashion news director and held such posts as deputy style editor of The New York Times Magazine and executive fashion editor of Harper’s Bazaar. She also wrote a column for Mirabella magazine called “She Shops By Night.”
Weir lectured at several museums and taught fashion courses at New York University, too. She had two Yorkies, Taffy and Tessie, and had a house in Southampton, N.Y., for a number of years.
She was married to Kirk Baron, who was in the merchant marine, until he died in 2000.
She is survived by her sister, Phyllis Wilkie, along with her nephew, Jeffrey T. Wilkie, and his wife, Marilyn, and their children Andrew, Kyle and Blair. A memorial service to celebrate Weir’s life will be held at Immanuel Lutheran Church at 122 East 88th Street in New York at 11 a.m. on Feb. 28.