Fern Mallis, 1948

  • Fern-Mallis-WWP

Woman Category: Fashion & BeautyWoman Tags: Designer, Editor, and NYC Women

  • HerStory

    Fashion industry consultant and philanthropist. The co-creator of New York Fashion Week. Often referred to as “The Godmother of Fashion.”

    Fern Mallis was born in Brooklyn, NYC. Her father sold females’ scarves in the Garment District, and when as a kid, she used to go with him to work, escorting him in his meetings with customers and fashion directors, as well as watching the scarves designers. After high school, she attended University at Buffalo, receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. At age 21, while still at college, she was selected as a guest editor at Mademoiselle magazine, first as an art editor and later as a merchandising editor. When the fellowship was over, they offered her a job. At 27, she left the magazine and worked at Gimbels East for a while, before founding a relations firm for architects and interior designers with two of her friends.
    At age 43, Mallis decided to return to the fashion industry and was hired as an executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) – the governing body of fashion designers and runway shows in the US. At this position, she organized the annual CFDA Fashion Awards Galas and launched numerous charities, including the Fashion Targets Breast Cancer and the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS. In 1993, alongside Stan Herman, CFDA ‘s president at the time, she created the 7th on Sixth – a weeklong event that provided a platform for fashion designers to display their work. This annual event, which later became known as NYC Fashion Week, soon grew into an international venue. In 2001, the Fashion Week concept was acquired by IMG company, and Mallis was appointed its Senior VP of IMG Fashion. Under her leadership, Fashion Week became a global phenomenon, with annual shows happening worldwide, from LA and Miami to Berlin, Mumbai, and Sydney. There, she organized the events and served as a judge and as a mentor. At the age of 62, she left IMG to found an international fashion and design consultancy – Fern Mallis LLC. Two years later, she launched a jewelry line called FERN FINDS.
    Over the years, Mallis featured on many TV programs, such as Project Runway, She’s Got the Look, and America’s Next Top Model. She hosted a conversation series at the 92nd Street Y, in which she interviewed leading figures in the fashion industry, among them, are Donna Karan, Tom Ford, Diane von Furstenberg, and Oscar de la Renta. She serves as a board member of various organizations, including the Partnership for the Homeless, the Steering Committee for NYCx Design Week, and Tara Jewels in Mumbai, India.

    “Stay focused. Be honest. Be nice. Stay true to your core beliefs. Don’t burn bridges.”

    “Stay focused. Be honest. Be nice. Stay true to your core beliefs. Don’t burn bridges.”


    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • She is still a consultant in fashion weeks all over the world.
    • She is a strong advocate for Sustainable fashion.
    • Her final interview for the CFDA was on her 43 birthday. At the end of it, all the board members sang her “happy birthday,” among them were Ralph Lauren, Oscar de la Renta, and Donna Karan.
    • She was a consulting producer for The Fashion Show and the reality television series ReModeled.
    • In 2012 she made her theatre stage debut in the Off-Broadway production Love, Loss, and What I Wore by Nora & Delia Ephron.
    • She never got married.
    • Her favorite vacation place is St. Barts.
  • More About Her Legacy

    * The Fashion Maverick Award from the American Apparel and Footwear Association
    * Fashion Legacy Award from the Fashion Chamber of Commerce State of Style Awards
    * Lifetime Achievement Award from Pratt Institute (2012)
    * Leadership Award from the Fashion Center BID
    * Fashion Institute of Technology President’s Lifetime Achievement Award, (2013)
    * Inducted into the Business of Fashion 500 Hall of Fame (2014)

  • Watch and Learn More

  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Booking.com

  • Woman Tags: Designer, Editor, NYC Women

    Fashion Culture | Fashion Lives: Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis

    Fern Mallis, creator of New York Fashion Week, introduces her new book, Fashion Lives: Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis. The book offers 19 interviews with American fashion luminaries--such as Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, and Tom Ford--from Mallis's ongoing series of conversations at New York's prestigious 92nd Y.

    This event was held March 1, 2016 at The Museum at FIT, NYC.



  • Mallis in 2016 in NYC. Photo credit - Shutterstock