BLACK MARKS: Fashion memoirist Emily Davies‘ claim that her uncredited use of previously published material was an accident is seeming less credible. Davies, a former fashion writer for the Times of London, continues to insist she had no intention of passing off another writer’s words as her own in her proposal for “How to Wear Black,” but former colleagues and other journalists in London’s fashion community say the episode fits a pattern.
Davies’ supposed status as a fashion insider is the basis for “How to Wear Black,” which reportedly fetched a six-figure bid from Simon & Schuster and Random House U.K. in a December auction. In the proposal, Davies offers specific examples of that status, including “dining with Donna Karan on sea cucumber in Tokyo” and attending “Jennifer Lopez‘s engagement party at Donatella Versace‘s Lake Como villa.” Both of those claims seem now to be false, or at least inaccurate. “To the best of my knowledge, Donna was only in Tokyo one time (and I was with her), and she did not have dinner with this person,” said Patti Cohen, executive vice president of marketing and communications for Donna Karan International. As for the party at Versace’s villa (held to celebrate Lopez’s honeymoon, not her engagement), an organizer of the event did not believe Davies had been invited. While he did not have a copy of the guest list on hand, he said only top editors, including Davies’ then-boss, Times fashion editor Lisa Armstrong, were on it.
Armstrong declined to comment, possibly because the Times is involved in ongoing litigation with Davies over her May 2005 dismissal, which followed an investigation into her expenses. But sources in London said Armstrong reprimanded Davies several times for incorporating the words of other writers into her own articles. One such incident occurred in June 2004, when Davies used excerpts from a Financial Times shopping column by Susie Boyt in such a way as to make it appear she had interviewed Boyt, whose editor then complained to Armstrong. A writer for another U.K. daily said she discovered Davies had copied a designer profile she had written “word for word.” “I never complained — I assumed it was just a one-off,” said the writer, who requested anonymity.
Deborah Brett, who was Davies’ predecessor at the Times and now works for British Harper’s Bazaar, has seen the proposal for “How to Wear Black” and has her own problems with it. According to Davies, Brett said Ben de Lisi‘s shows are always “terribly boring [and] terribly bland,” a comment she denies ever making. “It’s sad because I like Ben de Lisi and I’m going to have to make some apologies to him, because it’s rather nasty what she says I said,” said Brett, who also challenged other details of Davies’ recollection.
Davies did not respond to queries, but her agent, Simon Trewin, defended her in an e-mail. “Emily is a highly respected journalist,” he wrote Wednesday. “She most certainly attended the Lopez event and a Karan dinner (the location of this will all be fact-checked for the finished book)….There were no accusations of plagiarism while she was at the London Times and her record of employment contains no warnings that would back up your claims.” Ebury Press, the Random House unit that agreed to publish the book in the U.K., did not respond to a request for comment. Meanwhile, Sarah McGrath, an editor at Simon & Schuster’s Scribner imprint, said no decision has been made on publishing the book in the U.S.
One person who hopes the book does not make it to press is Charles Scribner 3rd, a grandson of Scribner’s founder who spent 25 years working at the company. “For very selfish historical reasons I would be disappointed to see my family’s name on the spine of a book that took such liberties,” said Scribner, who has another connection to the Davies affair: quotes he made to the New York Times in 1998 appear in her proposal, but she credits them to “bald” public relations man Paul Wilmot. “Why should somebody be given hundred of thousands of dollars for doing something you’d be kicked out of college for?”
— Jeff Bercovici
PERSONNEL BUSINESS: It could be another year before the general public gets to see it, but mocked-up pages for the new Condé Nast business magazine are likely now circulating at 4 Times Square. Veteran art director Robert Priest was recently brought in to work on the prototype and will stay through the 2007 launch, a spokeswoman for the magazine confirmed. Priest resigned from his post as design director of O at Home several weeks ago and has been installed at Condé Nast headquarters on a part-time basis ever since. (The rest of the week, he runs his own design firm, Priest Media.)
Reached by phone Wednesday, Priest would only say, “It’s a good, serious subject. So I think it’s going to be a great magazine.” Asked about the look of the traditional leaders in the already well-served category, like Fortune, Forbes and Business Week, Priest chuckled and said, “I’m not going to go there. Some of my best friends do those magazines.”
Editor in chief Joanne Lipman also quietly poached two photo editors from within the company a couple months back. Lisa Berman, longtime deputy to Vanity Fair’s photography director Susan White, and Vanity Fair senior associate photo editor Sarah Czeladnicki are now working in the photo department at the business magazine. That makes an editorial team of seven so far, including deputy editor Jim Impoco, managing editor Blaise Zerega and senior writer Dan Roth.
A spokeswoman for Vanity Fair said that Berman’s duties had been divvied up among existing staff; Sasha Erwitt and Jessica Dimson were promoted to senior associate photo editor and assistant photo editor, respectively, and Mark Jacobson came over from Entertainment Weekly as associate photo editor.
— Sara James