Ruth Finley, who created the Fashion Calendar and was a leading figure in the industry, died Saturday night at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York at age 98.
The cause of death was respiratory failure, according to her son, Larry Lein.
Finley, who was born Jan. 14, 1920, in Haverhill, Mass., moved to New York City after her graduation from Simmons College in Boston in 1941. She landed a job at Lord & Taylor in the visual department, and later wrote for the New York Herald Tribune. With a loan of $1,000 from a college friend, Finley launched the Fashion Calendar in 1945. She served as founder and publisher, and was a one-woman operation, keeping track of all New York fashion events, parties, benefits, and fashion shows. She ran it for nearly 70 years and sold it to the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 2014.
In addition to running her own business, Finley was very philanthropic. She joined the board of Citymeals on Wheels in 1983, only two years after its founding by Gael Greene and James Beard. She and her colleagues spearheaded the annual Fashion & Beauty Industry Salute to Citymeals on Wheels, which was the first of its kind for the organization.
In an interview with WWD in 2015, Beth Shapiro, executive director of Citymeals on Wheels said, “Ruth is one of Citymeals’ most devoted supporters. Over the years, through her untiring commitment to the organization, she has raised more than $2 million for Citymeals.”
Finley was also active in Lighthouse for the Blind and the Roundtable for Fashion Executives.
Steven Kolb, president and chief executive officer of the CFDA, said Monday of Finley, “She was a phenomenon in her life and career. She started Fashion Calendar as a single mom in 1945 and was a female business owner at a time when it wasn’t really done. She was instrumental in organizing the industry and fashion week. If you look at the history of fashion, it can’t be told without Ruth’s name connected to it.”
Kolb said designers such as Bill Blass, Norman Norell, Peter Som and Alexander Wang would get advice from her and she knew and supported them. In 2014, Finley received the Board of Trustees award at the CFDA Awards, and got a long standing ovation. “She was incredibly loved and loved fashion. She trusted the CFDA to take over the Fashion Calendar,” said Kolb.
A small private service will be held in Haverhill on Sept. 3, and a larger memorial service is being planned at the Fashion Institute of Technology in early October. Details are still being worked out.
In addition to her son Larry and his wife Jayne, Finley is survived by two other sons: Joe Green and his wife, Carol, and Jim Green and his wife Bonnie; nine grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.