John B. Fairchild was more quotable than most of the people his publications wrote about. Outspoken — and often outrageous — his comments over the years, whether by him or his alter ego, Louise J. Esterhazy, were an accurate reflection of who he was. Here are some of his observations.

From an interview with Meryl Gordon in Vanity Fair, September 2012:

“It was about pride and prestige for the company. Paris Match called me ‘a monstrous little brat.’ I was just fighting for my rights.”

“She [Coco Chanel] had the best wine and Champagne. We would both be bombed out of our minds.”

“Oscar’s failure is that he’s never had a good perfume business. Carolina wonders why she doesn’t get more publicity because her business is bigger than Oscar’s….Designers pretend to have this great friendship, but they are all competing.”

“I wouldn’t have done what I did if I hadn’t been hurt. I couldn’t get the bacon. You’ve got to get the bacon — that’s all that counts.”

“I’m so naughty.”

From an interview with Zeke Turner in The New York Observer, June 25, 2010:

“If I see another movie star in a fashion magazine — it’s ridiculous! It’s a nightmare. That’s what they call cutting edge. I hate that word. And buzz. It’s a crock. They love buzz! When I hear the word buzz, it reminds me of a chain saw.”

“I’m a very competitive animal. I got arrested by the French economic police for breaking the release date.”

“But it’s a sport, you know. Don’t you like the sport of being a journalist, getting scoops? It’s a sport!”

“A W story would be to go to a place that very few people had been to — who would be there and who they’d see. You’d tie it to people, not necessarily movie stars, but other people who were well known.”

“It shouldn’t be just fashion. That’s my philosophy right or wrong. In the fashion world, it’s totally ridiculous. One hand wags the other hand. The thing that’s often forgotten, that is really forgotten, is that the reader is what counts. If you don’t amuse the reader or stimulate the reader, you’re not doing your job.”

“Times have changed. He’s [W editor in chief Stefano Tonchi] got to operate differently now than the way I did. Let’s face it, we didn’t have to pull punches because we were not controlled by our advertisers. I suppose we were a bunch of mad people, and we decided that we would publish what we wanted to publish. It was great! I loved those days.”

From an interview with Bob Colacello in Vanity Fair, May 1986:

“Sure we have gossip; we also have some very, very solid business stories. We are a creation of this business, which is fast, mean, tough, sometimes artistic, sometimes fun, sometimes horrible. However, we do not run divorces, love affairs, murders or rapes. We don’t delve into that, [though] business today is rape, murder, money, power, all of it.”

“The job of…W is to write about the people who make the world of Paris move, the world of New York move, the worlds of Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles move. They’re the top people. They want that role. Well, if they want it, it’s fine with me. I find it very repetitious. I think individually these people are fantastic, but as a group it’s like the old wagon train. They’re all in a circle, and the only time they get mad is when somebody tries to get in. It is a lethal incestuous group. I mean, this mass of everybody together, like at the Literary Lions dinner — all those people are gathered in one room, all powerful people all upstaging each other. It really is a terrifying experience.”

“It’s just the way he goes into a restaurant, the way he acts…Let’s face it, he’s not the nicest person to little people… Probably, it’s our sophomoric — my sophomoric — sense of humor, calling him the Social Moth.” — On why WWD often poked fun at Jerome Zipkin.

“I just find that anybody who shows off their wealth, or their power, or is rude to little people who can’t fight back — I think it’s almost a sin. But I think if people want to spend a lot of money looking attractive and want to entertain at home, and they have the money to do it, it’s not my place, our place, to say, ‘Well, wouldn’t it be nice if they gave it to the poor or a museum?’ When it’s excessive, I think it’s embarrassing.”

“Washington is the deadest city in America.”

“Don’t get me on royalty. I find it so boring. Prince Rainier! How dare he sit at dinner next to Pat Buckley, who’s a fun, exciting woman, and he doesn’t say one word — all he does is stuff his face with food!”

“The one thing I would like to be and which I don’t think I am…is…tolerant. A tolerant person who gives lots of love. I certainly don’t want to be known as a tough-minded businessman, or a tough-minded so-called editor or publisher. That doesn’t race my motor. I don’t have any mission in life to be altruistic; I just want to be tolerant because I am not tolerant. I’m very impatient. I hate myself for it, but I can’t control it. I think I’m very naïve. I’m very immature on some things. Everyone thinks I’m this tough-s–t, hard-boiled, calculating mean son of a b—-. When I’m really very naïve…I dread walking into a room with a bunch of people I don’t know. I don’t know what to do or say. I’m very awkward. I’m not secure…I want to please people.”

From an interview with Barbara Goldsmith in Town & Country, February 1966:

“Clothes aren’t what it’s all about any longer. A woman can have the most beautiful clothes in the world and the most beautiful face, but if she isn’t fun and amusing, if she doesn’t move correctly, if she’s not with what is going on today, she isn’t interesting as a personality.”

“You have to be shallow to spend more than a certain amount of time on how you look. The majority of women on the Best Dressed List bore me to death.”

“[Fashion] has to have a little humor injected into it. Most of the people in the business take it too seriously. Most designers are basically movie stars and they want star treatment. It’s hard for people who devote their life to fashion to realize it’s not the end-all of living. For most people it’s just a tiny part of their lives.”

“Most women look awful in pants and should never wear them unless the pants are very well cut and the ladies are very well cut.”

“It always astounds me that women want to throw themselves in front of a camera. If I were going to a party, I wouldn’t want my wife-to-be photographed. A beautiful woman is something to be guarded like a flower and not publicly displayed to everybody.”

“I love to show decadence in WWD.” — Referring to coverage of a black-tie New York dinner party given by candlelight on the night of the November 1965 blackout.

“It is the mark of a badly dressed woman when she doesn’t dress her age. There is no sense going against nature.”

“It is difficult for older women, unless they have lots of money, to find clothes that are well made and in good taste. The whole idea of American fashion is geared to youth.…I think the middle-aged woman is neglected.”

“I just like peace and a very quiet life. After all, with four children you don’t have too much time to do everything. We lived in New York for a while, and I think that when you are in an apartment with children, you have a tendency to want to go out and do more things than you would do if you were living far from the city. In the country we live our lives in our house. We have a few people for dinner or we go to their houses. We rarely even go to a restaurant.”

From a profile by Diana Lurie in Life magazine, March 17, 1967:

“In the fashion business it’s almost against the law to tell the truth.…It’s not seamy but it does seethe with double deals and political ploys. These people are meat eaters who can devour you. It takes a strong person to stand up to them. If you don’t toe the line, they gang up on you.”

“No one has the right to determine who is best dressed. The Best Dressed List is a gimmick and a bunch of rot.”

“Good fashion is simple. When a woman comes into a room no one should stare and be shocked — and they shouldn’t think she is an old dishrag. Bad fashion is when a woman exaggerates. Take the period of the big-front, tight sweaters, Marilyn Monroe stuff. It looked great on Marilyn Monroe, but it was grotesque to wear to a lunch in a thick-carpeted midtown restaurant.”

“The greatest thing America has done in fashion is to be first to accept the new. The French make the latest fashion but then they stick their noses up at it, while we will buy it.”

“I hate all the pretensions of the fashion world. There is a group of gold-heeled, idle ladies whose desire is to set a pattern for what they call ‘elegant living.’ They bore and terrify me. At their parties all they do is make forced conversation about the latest of everything. They are collectors of people and places which are ‘it’ this instant. Today Truman Capote is ‘in.’ And Leonard Bernstein, because of Jackie Kennedy’s affection for him.”

“We don’t make or break a designer…We write what buyers are saying. We once did headline a Givenchy collection as “Givenchy Is Flop Art.” It was. I’m accused of pushing Saint Laurent to taunt Balenciaga or Givenchy. But the mood of fashion has switched to Courrèges and Saint Laurent from the elegant monkdom these men live in.”

“If we learn Mr. X is about to be fired, we immediately run the story. The poor man may read about it in the paper before his boss has told him about it, but we can’t coddle our subjects and an individual’s feelings can’t count.”

From an interview with Dick Schaap in Book Week, Oct. 3, 1965:

“I’m very opinionated and so is Women’s Wear Daily. We alienate someone every day.”

From an interview in the Wall Street Journal, May 12, 1977:

“When people say that fashion is an art I get hysterical. Women look more beautiful without any clothes.…Fashion is a thing like a delicious meal to make a woman look and feel better. But it’s only an accessory. People get carried away with it.”

From an interview with James Fallon in a special anniversary issue of WWD, July 2001:

On what makes a great designer: “Clothes that are perfectly made and clothes that are worn by normal women, not just models. In short, the great designers make clothes that sell. Clothes can’t be isolated in a vacuum; that’s not what great design is about.”

On the Ladies Who Lunch (a phrase he coined): “Ladies Who Lunch didn’t exist in Paris. Women who are smart in Paris don’t spend their time at charity parties and eating lunch at restaurants. If they are interesting, they will have a quiet lunch party at home.”

On why he began writing about Jacqueline Kennedy even before she was first lady: “It was obvious to everyone the impact she was having. There are icons and icons. We didn’t really have the icon movie stars then, except for Audrey Hepburn, who’d been homogenized in clothes by Givenchy via Balenciaga. There were really slim pickings.”

On American designers: “American designers know how to dress the world and how to dress people with little money, not only lots of it. Their fashion contribution has been that fashion should be for everyone.…If you say who is the designer most recognized in the entire world, it would be Ralph Lauren and his man on the polo pony. He merchandised fashion to the nth degree and made a name. His store on Madison Avenue is one of perfection, and he has always stuck to that quality and image. He isn’t all over the place like a lot of other designers.…Halston did more to make American sportswear chic than anyone. He and Bill Blass…Calvin Klein to me is the epitome of the business designer’s machine.”

On what makes a good journalist: “A good journalist or editor has to always have something no one else has. That’s what I always tried to do. It’s unlike today, when you can pick up the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and they have exactly the same story. My rule was never to have anything on the front page anyone else had. To survive, you have to be unique.”

On controversy: “You’ve got to be controversial in fashion because, basically, it’s a bunch of blah blah. Controversy makes it lively. Luckily, the egocentricity of the business makes for very interesting pickings!”

On his most memorable scoop: “The biggest triumph was breaking the release date of the couture when I was in Paris. At that time, the Chambre Syndicale insisted magazines and newspapers couldn’t print sketches or photographs of the current collections until at least a month after the shows. I used to really resent how all the grande dames of the magazines could paw and examine the clothes, take them off to be photographed and show them to the Seventh Avenue manufacturers while we couldn’t do anything.
So Women’s Wear broke the release date. The first time we did it was with Saint Laurent’s first collection for Dior. All through the show, I kept thinking how we could illustrate it with pictures, not just words, until it struck me that the silhouette looked just like a toothpaste tube sitting on a brioche. So I rushed back to the office right after the show and had our artist Alex Rakoff sketch it. We wired it to New York and the next day it was on the front page. Jacques Rouet called immediately and said I’d insulted the House of Dior and Saint Laurent by breaking the release date and showing a Vaseline tube! I kept trying to tell him it was a toothpaste tube, but he wouldn’t listen. The French always do find other connotations in everything.”

On his greatest source of professional pride: “The people I worked with — and the fun. We always had fun.”