Catherine di Montezemolo, a former fashion editor at Vogue and senior vice president and fashion director of Lord & Taylor, died Wednesday at Pecomic Landing, an assisted living facility in Southampton, N.Y. She was 83. The cause of death was complications from pulmonary fibrosis, said Robin Pickett, a niece.
This story first appeared in the April 24, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Di Montezemolo was a striking platinum blonde known for her grace, personal style and unpretentious manner. Described by friends as a woman who always had a smile on her face and a generous heart, di Montezemolo had a varied career that started at Vogue, where she spent 35 years and became a fashion editor in the Sixties covering European fashion. She later spent 12 years at Lord & Taylor, where she continued to review ready-to-wear shows and the European couture as well as American fashion.
Bernadine Morris, former fashion editor of The New York Times, remembered, “She was a lady and happened to be covering fashion, and she covered it very well. She was very well thought of, quite charming and not ostentatious in any way, not the usual Vogue pattern at that time. We sort of worked the same beat in Europe in the Sixties. She had that beat for some time.”
Mary Lou Luther, creative director of The Fashion Group, recalled, “I knew her as an important person in the fashion world, always gracious, kind of the antithesis of people in the same positions at the same time. She was an inspirational person — not only creative and nice, but open to new ideas.”
While at Vogue, di Montezemolo was instrumental in cultivating a young, contemporary market with names such as Ann Fogarty, Judy and Jill and Junior League, as well as sportswear with designers including Claire McCardell, Caroline Schnurer and Sydney Wragge.
After retiring from Lord & Taylor, di Montezemolo created a collection of loungewear bearing her name in the Eighties.
Recalled designer Stan Herman, “I knew her when she was my editor at Vogue. For me, she was such a class act and the most beautiful looking woman I knew. She was everybody’s muse, and she was very social. She later designed things like patio dresses, things she would wear.”
Di Montezemolo, who was predeceased in 2003 by her husband of 45 years, Alessandro, was also a well-known figure on Southampton’s social circuit, where she devoted her time to her two favorite charities — The Southampton Fresh Air Home and the Southampton Hospital.
She is survived by three sisters: Patricia Wood, Jeanne Vanderbilt and Elizabeth Conniff.
At press time, funeral plans were not finalized, but di Montezemolo will be buried at the Sacred Heart Cemetery in Southampton, said Pickett. A memorial service is being planned in Southampton during the first week of May.