Details magazine founder and cultural connector Annie Flanders died Thursday at age 82.
Flanders died of natural causes at the Hollywood Hills, a Pacifica Senior Living Community, where she had been residing for a few years, according to fashion writer and creative consultant Rose Apodaca. A member of The Neptune Society, as was the case with her late husband Chris, Flanders will be cremated.
Celebrations of Flanders’ life are being planned for Los Angeles and New York this spring.
As founding editor and publisher of Details, Flanders was honored in 1985 by the Council of Fashion Designers of America for her “fresh approach to journalism.”
Decades before trend forecasters, management consultant groups and algorithms dictated pop culture fashion’s force with consumers, Flanders helped guide the zeitgeist by not just observing it, but living it. Aside from grasping the ins and outs of the apparel industry’s seasonal grind from firsthand experience, Flanders also understood how fashion, art, music and Manhattan’s downtown culture collided.
Along the way she mined a slew of talents who came of age somewhere between the late ’70s and early ’90s. Anna Sui, Isabel and Ruben Toledo, Steven Meisel, Bruce Weber, Richard Tyler, Jeremy Scott, Stephen Gan, Arianne Phillips, Michael Schmidt and Patrick Kelly were among the talents that Flanders helped elevate. Perhaps the designer Betsey Johnson summed up the sentiments of many when she presented Flanders with her CFDA award, thanking her “for taking me seriously despite what I look like.”
Scott recalled growing up “on a steady diet” of Flanders’ Details and “learned about fashion, high fashion, low fashion, street fashion, club fashion — any kind of fashion that was happening. It’s why I truly fell in love with fashion. It’s why I dreamt about wanting to be in the fashion orbit. The world that Annie Flanders brought to life in every issue of Details was my oxygen. It was my motivation. It was my everything.”
Flanders helped expose the world to what was happening in the interlaced worlds of fashion, art, culture and more with a heavy emphasis on what the mainstream magazines weren’t covering, said Apodaca, who first caught Flanders’ attention in 1986 at the age of 18 by wearing a DIY “crazy outfit with a tutu and a ginormous green bow.”
Flanders was also an early advocate of the fight against AIDS, as a founding board member of the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS in 1984, the organization that is more commonly known as DIFFA. In that post for eight years, she helped create and co-chaired “The Love Ball,” an annual fundraiser that also showcased voguing, which Flanders featured in the pages of Details. Madonna was said to have first seen voguing at the event and later spotlighted it in her 1990 “Vogue” music video for MTV.
Susanne Bartsch said Flanders was one of the first people she called to pitch in with the “Love Ball.” Flanders loved the concept, thought it was time that the fashion community got involved and ended up getting Absolut brass to pay for the program, Bartsch said. Flanders featured Bartsch on the cover of the first issue of Details. Flanders also supported Bartsch’s art, her store in SoHo that was stocked with young designer styles and other things that Bartsch was doing. They had places near each other on the island of Vieques at one point. “She was my neighbor. She was my girlfriend. She also put me on the cover,” Bartsch said. “She was so much a part of my life. It’s really sad to lose her.”
Flanders’ AIDS-related fundraising efforts included co-chairing the New York City edition of Live Aid, an event that spotlighted 80 designers in a fashion show that raised money for families in Ethiopia. Like much of her dealings, her connection to Africa was personal. In 1971, Flanders and her husband moved there with their young daughter Rosie to help create jobs and offset the then minuscule rate of employment. With the help of the king of the north province of Makala, they opened a factory to make leather clothes and handbags, Apodaca said. Their mission was to teach their 300 employees how to be self-sufficient and to take over the factory when their two-year commitment ended. The family returned to New York in 1973.
Born Marcia Weinraub, Flanders legally changed her first name to “Annie” in the mid-’70s because she preferred it. While attending New York University’s School of Commerce, Accounts & Finance in the late ’50s, she majored in retail and minored in journalism. Despite living a good part of her life in Los Angeles, Flanders had an inveterate New York streak — perhaps due in part to having won a New York City pageant in 1959.
Post-NYU, her fashion experience stemmed from an early job as an assistant fashion director at Gimbels department store, selecting items for window displays and coordinating fashion shows for the Manhattan outpost and suburban locations. Flanders moved on to a buyer role at Stern’s department store’s 42nd Street location.
By 1967, Flanders had ventured out on her own by opening the progressive boutique Abracadabra at 243 East 60th Street. Flanders once explained that she was keen to showcase “the new fashion designers and artists, who I was told were unacceptable for department stores because they either couldn’t put up advertising money or the production was too small or they couldn’t afford to accept returns.”
In tune with the youthquake street style that was storming cities like London and Los Angeles, and the independent boutiques that were cropping up to dress them, Flanders wanted to invent her own way, according to Apodaca. The interior featured a mirrored sculpture that had been salvaged from a “Hall of Mirrors” in an abandoned amusement park in New Jersey. Flanders’ original press release for the store’s opening touted that it was located in the “Swingers District of Manhattan.” The clientele included Penelope Tree, Mia Farrow and Britt Ekland, among others. The retail spectacle garnered coverage in WWD, Vogue, The New York Times and Cosmopolitan.
In 1970, Flanders unveiled a second location at Lexington Avenue and East 51st Street, occasionally staging fashion presentations there that were televised.
After returning to the U.S. from Africa, she worked as a women’s and juniors’ buyer and merchandise manager at AG Field in Jackson Heights. During that run, she chronicled her fashion finds as a style columnist for the SoHo Weekly News from 1976 through 1980. As the founding editor in chief, Flanders started and co-owned Details with Stephen Saban, Ronnie Cooke Newhouse and Lesley Vinson in 1982. She also rallied SoHo Weekly News former staffers as Bill Cunningham and Dan Gershon.
Cooke Newhouse said via e-mail that the contributors were made up of “the coolest, most passionate outsiders hailing from all walks of life. Annie would make people with an opinion into writers and contributors whether they ever wrote before, and was the first magazine to be as inclusive as it was. We are only seeing that shift recently in the magazine world.”
Cooke Newhouse continued, “She collected what she thought of the misfits coming from the downtown creative scene and that extended to Europe and the west coast as well – those who were outside the norms of the conventional magazines at the time. Downtown was punk sbd those codes were inherent in the spirit of Annie’s Details. Details wasn’t really s fashion magazine but Annie mixed men’s and women’s together in one magazine. She also devoted issues to Bill Cunningham’s collections report. One of the tag lines for the magazine was ‘a party in a magazine’ and it was for eight years.”
Flanders once explained in an interview with The Daily Front Row how she came up with the magazine’s name in the most innocuous way. While living in Woodstock, N.Y., one afternoon her daughter returned from a friend’s house. Flanders’ questions about the friend’s family went unanswered. She reportedly advised her daughter “to get all the details” the next time that she went to somebody’s house and then jotted the word down because it would be a good name for a magazine.
With a knack for mining prominent creatives and an appreciation for the inexperienced, she set out to find new designers and give other unknown talents a place to showcase their work. What started with 48 pages evolved into 300-page issues. Flanders looked at the magazine from a wider lens than fashion incorporating writers, photographers, musicians and designers. The first issue featured six pages of Cunningham’s photographs and over time his metier could take up as much as 100 pages. The pair first met when Cunningham, who was working for WWD at that time, dropped by Abracadabra.
Another photographer Weber described Flanders Saturday as “just really cool and funny, and a total champion for young artists and photographers. She was so elegant, yet down-to-earth like the friend you have back home. There was no one who didn’t like working with her.”
Lensman Patrick McMullan, who has shot generations of New York City personalities, nightlife and events, said that Flanders “invented him,” provided Saban liked him. As a party photographer for Details, McMullan saw how Flanders “encouraged everyone and had pride in all who succeeded and many who tried. With a good eye and a sense of humor, her approval meant everything. I love her madly.”
Having once woken up very late on deadline day at 6 p.m. and hadn’t finished his work, McMullen recalled how “without anger” Flanders said, “‘Well, do it. We’ll still be here.’ I arrived at 3 a.m. and she said, ‘These are great.’ and went back to editing.”
Phillips said that Flanders modeled to her what a success could look like. Not only was she a successful woman publisher and businesswoman, she was warm, kind and invested in nurturing talent. She was a Mother Goose for downtown fashion punks and misfits.”
Although Flanders and her team crafted a downtown cultural magazine, Details had various incarnations through the years. A controlling interest was sold in 1984 to avoid a potential bankruptcy. It was sold to investor Alan Patricof in 1988, who sold it to Condé Nast a year later for $2 million. Condé Nast relaunched the title in 2000 but shuttered it completely in 2015.
After Details, Flanders relocated to the West Coast and switched tracks to work as a Realtor. She also continued as a fairy godmother of sorts to creatives in fashion, art and music, continuing to entertain locals and New York City transplants and visitors in her high-rise home. Serendipitously, when Scott was looking to put down stakes in Los Angeles and buy a house after establishing himself as a new talent in Paris, his friend Lisa Marie “had just the right person,” who turned out to be Flanders. Scott said he was “elated” to have one of his heroes and his “fashion oracle” help him find a house — a 1934 Deco Modern house in the Hollywood Hills. Their friendship blossomed from there. The designer said he will cherish the love she bestowed on him, the stories she shared and especially the “joy I felt from knowing that I made her proud with the work I’ve done. She lit the flame inside me that propelled me to my success.”
Flanders would want to be remembered for “championing independent talent and not just fashion but artists and other creatives and even individual style makers what we would call ‘influencers’ today. She made things happen and she took pride in that. She took pride in connecting people and creating events and parties where they could connect. And she celebrated the freaks. We all talk about that,” Apodaca said.
Flanders was predeceased by her husband as well as her brother Howard. She is survived by her daughter Rosie Flanders and husband Brendan Edwards.