Irish American Bridget Foley has been hailed as one of the most powerful voices in fashion in a recent New York Times profile. Foley works as executive editor at the go-to fashion periodical Women’s Wear Daily, where she pens the ‘Bridget Foley’s Diary’ column.
Despite being lauded as such an important influence in the fashion industry, Foley prefers to keep a low profile and shies away from the ‘personal branding’ philosophy that is taking hold of not only the fashion industry, but almost every other professional industry today.
“Powerful? I’m not sure I think in those terms,” Foley told Ruth La Ferla of the New York TImes.
“I’m writing about an industry, it’s about fashion. It’s not about me.”
A native of Troy, New York, Foley began her reporting career with Women’s Wear Daily after working at California Apparel News, where she covered the West Coast garment trade.
Coming to WWD in the mid-1980s, Foley worked under the famed John Fairchild. It was then, as the NY Times puts it, that “WWD was at the apex of its influence.”
Fairchild’s management style had an effect on Foley’s own career path. A certain “unwavering allegiance was expected from reporters, over whom Mr. Fairchild hovered from time to time as they clacked on their manual typewriters, straining to channel their boss’s thoughts and whims,” writes La Ferla.
Foley carries on with that allegiance, but masterfully blends her own opinion. For instance, while much of America was chomping at the bits to see who and what First Lady Michelle Obama was going to wear to the inaugural festivities, Foley chimed in saying “Mrs. Obama isn’t an indulged starlet primping for the Oscars, nor should she behave like one.”
Her opinions may not always be popular, but Foley sticks to them. “You can try to shake off her opinions,” said Patrick McCarthy, WWD’s publisher in the ‘80s and ‘90s, “But if she actually believes in something, she will keep coming back at you, and back and back. And as often as not, she is right.”
Coupled with her convictions are Foley’s supreme moral compass. “She has a very strong moral compass,” said Gina Sanders, the chief executive of Fairchild Fashion Group, which publishes Women’s Wear Daily. That sense is demonstrated, Sanders said, “in her esteem for fashion and those who create it.”
Indeed, Foley is not one to brush off the hard work that goes into being a fashion designer. “What designers do is so hard,” says Foley, referring to a production cycle that requires designers to embark on their next collection well before they have completed their last.
“Fashion is the only discipline where there is no creative down time,” she added.
It is her admiration of designers’ disciplines coupled with her own reporting discipline that has helped make Foley one of the most important names in fashion. Her support has become so influential that today Michael Kors, once an unknown, is singing Foley’s praises.
“She is one of but a handful of writers who has watched my career from its infancy,” Kors said. Foley’s and WWD’s support “let retailers know about me before I had fashion shows or advertising.”
The weight of influence that both WWD and Foley carry today is undeniable. “For a designer who wants to be taken seriously,” said Adrien Field, who presented his debut collection in New York in February, “a review from WWD is a stamp of accreditation that you can take with you into sales meetings and investor pitches. It’s worth its weight in gold.”
“I would rather have a three-sentence write-up in WWD,” Field added, “than the attention of 100 blogs.”
Foley is, in Field’s view, that rare fashion editor who remains above the fray, credible, knowledgeable and untainted by commercial interests, says La Ferla.
Despite her influence, Foley remains modest about her work, insisting that she is only doing her job. “I get things done,” she said.
No Irish Need Apply? Not anymore