Spotlight On Fern Mallis

by Elysian Magazine

Fern was well along her path to a career in fashion when she was chosen as one of 20 college guest editors for the Conde Nast publication geared to young fashionistas, Mademoiselle. After graduating with a BFA from the University of Buffalo, she took a job as the magazine’s merchandising editor and seven years later, moved crosstown to Gimbels East department store, as fashion director. After a brief detour into interior design, she says, “Then I threw my hat in the ring propitiously… the Council of Fashion Designers of America was looking for a new director.” And Fern was back.

Bur before she even arrived for her first day at the CFDA office, Fern unexpectedly faced an almost insurmountable crisis when the horrifying news came that the ceiling had collapsed on a Michael Kors fashion show. “It landed on the shoulders of Naomi (Campbell), Cindy (Crawford), Linda (Evangelista)—all the one-name supermodels. All hell broke loose. The editors of all the famous fashion magazines wrote the next day, ‘We live for fashion; we don’t want to die for it’.” Working fervently to find a big solution for a mammoth problem, Mallis needed to find a place pronto for American fashion designers to show their work—and did, creating the plan and choreographing the move to build a temporary tent city in Bryant Park at the New York Public Library—and New York Fashion Week was born. Originally called 7th on Sixth (7th Avenue is the midtown Manhattan home to every big-name fashion showroom, and Bryant Park is between Fifth and Sixth Avenues), Fern applied her entrepreneurial spirit and superhuman energies as Senior VP and global ambassador of IMG Fashion to make New York Fashion Week the most important and successful fashion event in the world. Twice a year, the fashion community flocks to see the debut of the Spring and Fall Collections of time-honored designers as well as new, up-and-coming ones. So successful was Fern’s formula that it has spawned Fashion Weeks worldwide, under her supervision, in cities such as Los Angeles, Melbourne, Miami, Mumbai, and Berlin.

Profiled as an ELYSIAN Inspiring Woman in our Summer 2016 issue, to detail Fern’s extraordinary career would take a book (and, not surprisingly, she’s written one, Fashion Lives: Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis, published by Rizzoli, 2015.) Today she is president of her eponymous international fashion and design consultancy, Fern Mallis LLC. We wanted to catch up with Fern to see what she’s up to…and as to be expected, what she’s doing is amazing. She’s been conducting a series of seminars at the world-class cultural and community center, New York’s 92Y (92nd Street YMCA) featuring celebrities from the fashion industry, such as Calvin Klein, supermodel Iman, Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford, and shortly before his death, the great Oscar de la Renta, one-on-one in front of a live audience.


  • On March 30 at 7:30 PM at Buttenwieser Hall at The 92Y, Fern’s guest is world-renowned makeup artist, cosmetics industry titan, bestselling author, and serial entrepreneur Bobbi Brown. Bobbi will be discussing her latest venture, “Jones Road,” a collection of clean beauty products for all ages, skin types, and skin tones, and how she has expanded her influence into the world of health and wellness.
  • On April 7 at 7:30 PM at Buttenwieser Hall at The 92Y, Fern’s guest is supermodel Christy Turlington Burns, who today works as an advocate for maternal health through the philanthropy she created, Every Mother Counts. Christy will also discuss her latest book, Arrival Stories, which she co-authored with Amy Schumer.
  • On May 18 at 7:30 PM at Buttenwieser Hall at The 92Y, Fern’s guest is TORY BURCH, whose billion-dollar global fashion brand evolved from one product, her “Reva ballet flat,” which has become a staple in every fashionista’s wardrobe—including Oprah Winfrey’s. Tory will discuss her work with the Tory Burch Foundation and how her design philosophy and company culture works to empower all women to #EmbraceAmbition.
  • In-person ($20) and online tickets ($15) are available. You can also purchase a curated ten-video subscription for $100.

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