Catching Up with “It” Fashion Editor Marilyn Kirschner

Fashion has the power to inspire and is a fantastic form of creative self-expression. Once you fall in love with it, it’s hard to quit. However, you can adore style but to have a true sense of knowledge, appreciation, and understanding of fashion is something rare. Fashion editor Marilyn Kirschner, definitely embodies these characteristics.

Marilyn Kirschner is a Fashion Editor With 40+ Years of experience. As Senior Market Editor Of Harper’s Bazaar For 21 years, she met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan, and New York. Marilyn was responsible for the overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories. Currently, Marilyn is the Editor-in-Chief of lookonline.com, a chic and stylish fashion website, and Gemma Magazine was thrilled to speak with her.

When did you become interested in fashion? You can tell that you put everything into each project you are working on.

I can’t remember not loving fashion. Even as a little girl, I obsessed over shoes. I remember loving a pair of white flats decorated with colorful circles or balloons. If I saw something I loved, I wanted to have it. My fabulous and beautiful parents were always glamorous and well dressed. I guess you can say it’s in my DNA. There was never a question that I would be a fashion editor.

What was your time like as Senior Market Editor at Harper’s Bazaar?

My time at Harper’s Bazaar was genuinely memorable and utterly transformative. It laid the groundwork for my understanding, knowledge, and appreciation of fashion. Working for a fashion magazine was different in the ’70s and ’80s. It was all about creativity. Editors had free reign. It was my job to find the best clothes out there. I loved working with and meeting some of the most iconic names in fashion, but I also loved discovering. I met Perry Ellis when he first started designing for John Meyer of Norwich, before starting his eponymous label. When Carrie Donovan, who had been senior fashion editor of Harper’s Bazaar (among other things), spoke at Perry Ellis’s memorial service at the Ethical Culture School in June 1986, she credited me with discovering Perry Ellis. Over 200 people filled the audience …fashion’s biggest names.

Marilyn Kirschner wearing vintage Issey Miyake pleated poncho

What did you learn from working with so many designers and seeing their collections?

What’s good is always right, period! Geoffrey Beene had great disdain for trends, and he hated the way the press was still trying to find the ‘new.’ As Geoffrey said, “Don’t ask me what’s new. Ask me what’s good!

Do you find yourself always “scouting” as a natural habit –somewhat gravitating towards different artistic styles and colors?

I am continually looking!!!! I want to see as much out there as possible. As they say, “Once a fashion editor, always a fashion editor!” To quote Diana Vreeland: “The eye has to travel.” Boy does it ever!!

Who are some of your favorite designers? Also, you mentioned previously that you are known to be quite adept at thrifting and mixing pieces very well in order to not spend a fortune. Hints on how you do this?

In my Hall of Fame: Yves Saint Laurent, Geoffrey Beene, Azzedine Alaia, Coco Chanel, Andre Courreges. I am a massive fan of Jil Sander and am so glad she is collaborating again with Uniqlo. I love what Phoebe Philo did for Celine. I hope she comes back into fashion. I love what Alber Elbaz did at Lanvin and look forward to seeing his new venture, AZfashion. Rick Owens and Ralph Rucci are remarkable. So is Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli. I have tremendous respect for Norma Kamali. She is a genius. So modern! And, so perfect for now. I love the inventiveness of Thom Browne. Young Peter Do is more than a rising star. His star has risen. He is the next generation.

As far as my ability to “thrift”…I wish I were better at it lol. But, seriously, it’s helpful to have a good eye and understand fashion and proportion. Forget about trends and designer labels and focus on what looks good. It’s also important to experiment. Think out of the box. The element of surprise is so important in fashion. Especially now. There are no rules. It’s also helpful to know what’s going on in fashion, but focus on an aesthetic that is good, not trendy.

Marilyn Kirschner with Alber Albez

You do a gorgeous job as the editor-in-Chief for Lookonline.com. What is a typical day like?

Nothing is typical. Especially now. I am on the computer more than I would like to be lol! Typically, during Fashion Week, or should I say, Fashion Month, I am plugged into what is going on. Even if I am not traveling to Paris or Milan or London, I make sure I see what is transpiring. Living in New York, there are always things to find and discoveries to be made. Even now. Before the pandemic, my calendar was always filled with events — Shows, parties, galas, award lunches and dinners, museum exhibition openings, charity events, etc. The social aspect of fashion- being out and about, not just sitting at home- is an important aspect. Unfortunately, that has been taken away from us, along with other essential elements in daily life.

Tell us about your interest in art.

I graduated from George Washington University with a liberal arts degree. I majored in Sociology but took a lot of Art History classes. I come from a very artistic family. I believe it’s in the genes, just like fashion. My mother is very creative and very artistic, although she is not a painter. My sister, Sherry Berz, is not only an art collector; she is an accomplished artist and sculptor. She has many one-woman shows under her belt and is commissioned to create works of art.

I don’t know how my love of art started but I am clearly drawn to it. Maybe I’m a frustrated artist. I have always loved Pucci which is colorful, bold and graphic. My mom had the best pieces and I developed a love as well. My Pucci’s can be framed and displayed on a wall. There is a Pucci revival currently underway; Tomo Kuizomi collaborating with the label for spring 2021.

Marilyn Kirschner wearing her vintage beaded Miro jacket with calligraphy artist Wang Dongling attends The Armory Show

Do you feel the past few years that there has been a fusion of fashion and art in culture?

 Definitely. Ever since Yves Saint Laurent designed the iconic Mondrian dress, many designers are so inspired. The spring 2021 collections are now underway (most of it is done digitally). The painterly use of color and art-inspired prints and patterns are recurring themes. Quite often, designers show their virtual collections against backdrops of art to emphasize the connection.  Raf Simons, who now co-designs Prada, has a history of infusing his collections (Jil Sander, Dior, Calvin Klein) with art. He once said that for him, art was more important than fashion. Also, there is an important socio-political connection between art and fashion which can’t be undervalued. Miuccia Prada and  Maria Grazia Chiuri (Dior) are among those who traditionally weave feminist art into their designs.  Pyer Moss’s Kerby Jean-Raymond uses African- American art to educate, celebrate his heritage, and tell a story. 

Are there some artists that influence your fashion choices (in terms of color and style)?

I am a modern art aficionado. I love the way Henry Matisse used colors and the boldness of the Cubists like Picasso and Braque. I am especially drawn to the combination of black and white. That is my uniform. I relate to bold abstract expressionism. This is why I fell in love with artist Mary van de Wiel’s Black Line Crazy bags. Each bag features one of Van’s bold black and white prints. They are evocative of the work of Franz Kline. I love the idea of carrying a work of art every day.

I also love black and white with hints of color. My vintage “Miro” beaded jacket, by Jeanette Kastenberg for St. Martin speaks volumes. As Oscar Wilde once said, “One should either be a work of art or wear a work of art.”

Marilyn Kirschner wearing her Iris Apfel skirt by Alice + Olive with Iris Apfel

Do you see a post-pandemic surge in fashion? Also, do you see a particular post-pandemic trend?

The “surge” is already happening. Just look at the Emmy Awards. The women got dressed! It’s human nature. Fashion is a form of self-expression. It telegraphs to the world who you are. It matters. You don’t have to be dressed in a ball gown or cocktail attire to be considered “well dressed.” Casual can be very well dressed too. Even if you are going out to run errands or keep appointments, you can still put yourself together in a considered way that makes you and those around you feel good.

Where do you see the future of fashion going? Editors, writers, etc. are craving events and shows. Hopefully, we will get back to live events.

I think things will eventually come back, but we are all doing the best we can for now. I do believe that the pandemic has forced many issues. There has been too much of everything, at too quick a pace. I think this will change. It already has. We still need, want, and desire new things, but I believe we all realize we can do with much less. The good will survive. The bottom line: “Cream rises to the top!”.

Marilyn Kirschner wearing vintage Oscar de la Renta attends the Folk Art Museum Gala

On behalf of Gemma Magazine, we would like to thank Marilyn Kirschner for speaking with us. To keep up with her: www.lookonline.com or you can follow her Instagram at @marilyn.kirschner

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