Fashion publicist, the founder of New York Fashion Week, and the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Known as the “Empress of Seventh Avenue.”
Eleanor Lambert was born in Crawfordsville, Indiana. She was always interested in art, and while growing up, she wanted to be a sculptor. Over time fashion became her passion, and after high school, she attended the John Herron School of Art and then the Art Institute of Chicago. At 22 years old, she moved to NYC and began her professional career at an advertising agency. After a short period, she was hired as the Whitney Museum of American Art’s first press director. At the same time, she helped found both the Art Dealers Association of America and the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to store and preserve exceptional design trends.
Lambert opened her advertising agency, specializing in representing artists and art galleries. Within a short time, she earned a reputation that drew world-known artists, such as Jacob Epstein and Jackson Pollock. In 1943, she was appointed as the press director of the New York Dress Institute. In this position, she developed the concept of fashion week in NYC, then called “Press Week.” In the beginning, there were two small-scale fashion weeks every year happening all over the city, but over time the events became the most important fashion events of the year, and she was called to produce similar events all over the world, from Japan to Australia and even in the Soviet Union.
As a devoted advocate for American fashion, Lambert always thought of new ways to promote American designers. With that in mind, she founded two establishments that put American fashion on the map – the International Best Dressed List and the Coty Fashion Critics’ Award (today the CFDA Awards, that referred to as “the Oscars of the fashion world”). Lambert worked to bring together American designers, enabling them to unite their voices in issues that affected them, regardless to their success or status. So, in 1962, she founded the Council of Fashion Designers of America. She ran the council for more than a decade and was an honorary member until she passed away in 2003. Three years later, she was appointed by President Johnson as the first US representative to the National Council on the Arts. Afterward, she became active in European fashion circles, representing upcoming designers such as Valentino and Pierre Cardin and exposing them to the American clientele. In 1973, she produced a historical fashion show at the Palace of Versailles, in which five American designers showed alongside five French designers. This show was the turning point in the perception of the European fashion world toward American fashion.
Lambert was active in the fashion world until the day she died at the age of 100. In her 75 years career, she worked tirelessly to promote American fashion in the US and abroad and make NYC one of the world’s fashion capitals.
“I am not the news”
“I am not the news”
More Interesting Anecdotes:
- She was raised as a Presbyterian.
- She was married twice, firstly to Wills Conner and then to Seymour Berksonwith, whom she had a son – the poet Bill Berkson.
- Her turbans and oversized jewelry became her trademark.
- She used to host a traditional Sunday lunch for fashion reporters at the beginning of every fashion week.
- She used to travel to Germany numerous times a year to receive a live-cell therapy treatment.
- She helped to establish the Art Dealers Association of America.
- The documentary film All About Eleanor is exploring her lifework.
- The Eleanor Lambert Award of the CFDA is named in her honor (2001).
- The Museum at FIT held an exhibition to explore her life and her influence on American fashion (2020).
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One of Her Landmarks
Photo credit - LOC