Janet Racy, a fashion and lifestyle consultant, died Thursday at age 68 at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Forest Hills, N.Y.
She died from complications from surgery following a long illness, according to her friend Lisa Silhanek. Services have not yet been planned and a celebration of her life will be held at a later date.
Racy worked as a trend forecaster, spokesperson, stylist, designer, visual display specialist, show producer and in other capacities. Many knew her as the director of fashion merchandising at Harper’s Bazaar, a post she held for five years until 1992. Prior to that, Racy served as vice president and fashion director of women’s apparel for the Associated Dry Good Corp., whose members included Lord & Taylor, J.W. Robinson and L.S. Ayres. During her career, she worked with brands and designers including Christian Francis Roth, Karl Lagerfeld, Thierry Mugler, Alber Elbaz and Kleinfeld. Racy also worked in special events, films and commercials.
Roth said Friday that after designing his first collection, he first met Racy through his girlfriend at that time, who is now his wife. After she called Racy at Harper’s Bazaar, Roth packed away his designs in a garment bag and walked to the magazine’s offices with a model friend to show Racy. “She was just beside herself. It was the first person I had ever shown my work to. Right away she called Marylou Luther and Lynn Manulis, the head of Martha boutique on Park Avenue. She was such a champion of my work early on and made introductions that shaped my entire career,” Roth said. “She put on a headset and called my first show from backstage. She helped calm me down, when I was worried or upset in preparation for the first show. She had a hand in sales, the merchandising, the styling, the model casting, the calling of the show. I just remember her there at all hours, not just for the first show but for the first several.”
Unfailingly positive, Racy excelled at putting people together, Roth said. “If she saw there was a talent, she was genuinely ecstatic about introducing that talent to the people that she knew. Putting people together, launching design careers — she had an outsized role in the industry in that regard,” he said.
Through the years, Racy, who started her own consultancy business in 1992, periodically appeared on television like Oprah Winfrey’s talk show, NBC’s “The Today Show” and QVC, among others. She also lectured and taught classes at universities and corporations. Racy also freelanced for fashion and lifestyle magazines. Well-informed about an array of subjects, Racy was not only smart, but she was nice, according to Luther. “Her major contribution was to prove that there could be goodness in the fashion world. And she was goodness. It didn’t all have to be make believe and let’s do the best we can to make it look good. She was real,” Luther said.
Kleinfeld co-owner Mara Urshel recalled Friday how she hired Racy to produce fashion shows for the bridal retailer with different organizations 21 years ago. ”At that time, fashion shows were more entertaining than just models going down the runway. Janet really worked with us and taught our marketing people every little thing about what has to be done to set up a fashion show — the photographers, sets, lights — everything. Jennette Kruszka, who is my director of marketing, said she learned everything she knows from Janet Racy.”
Describing Racy as “such a sincere, warm, intelligent and honest person, who you just loved being with,” Urshel said their friendship endured after they stopped working together. “You don’t run into too many of them in your life. The ones that you do, you really hold in esteem.”
Racy graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology majoring in apparel design and later went on to earn a BA in textiles and clothing from Queens College, as well as a MA in retail marketing from New York University. A member of the Fashion Group International, The Round Table of Fashion Executives and FIT’s Alumni Association, Racy also served on Kent State University’s advisory board and was a visiting guest at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
Manulis’ son Andrew Burnstine met Racy while studying together at NYU in the late Eighties. Racy wrangled clothes from Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta and others and produced and created “Clothes Encounters of the Third Kind” for a retail marketing class. “Janet even was so persuasive in those early days in convincing America’s top designers to loa us clothes for the show.” Burnstine said.
In addition to Roth, she also was instrumental in working with Martha’s to feature and promote designers like Josie Natori, Jeanette Kastenberg, Badgley Mischka, Joanna Mastroianni and Zang Toi, Burnstine said.
Racy is survived by her brother John.