Tag Archives: Hilary Alexander

2023 ➤ Fond farewells to the glorious Queen of the Telegraph fashion pages

Hilary Alexander, tributes, Daily Telegraph, fashion,

Farewell to Hilary Alexander on her retirement in 2011: here’s the spoof front page every good hack deserves to cap their career. Read my own account linked below

“The dizzy industry doyenne”
Obituary at Vogue

Fashion editors, tributes, obituary, Hilary Alexander, Suzy Menkes, Anna Wintour

The British fashion triumvirate in their heyday: Suzy Menkes of the International Herald Tribune, Hilary Alexander of the Daily Telegraph and Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of US Vogue

❚ ONE OF BRITISH JOURNALISM’S greatest characters has died and you won’t hear a harsh word spoken about her – apart from on the hilarious spoof tribute page produced for Hilary Alexander’s leaving party in 2011 after donkeys years as fashion director of the Daily Telegraph, when it enjoyed the highest daily sales among UK quality newspapers. During the 1980s-90s I worked regularly alongside Hilary and also dared go out on the town with her to witness her beaming smile and unique dress sense turn heads in all directions. As British fashion grew in credibility on the world stage, Hilary became one of a triumvirate of British fashion editors the international circuit took very seriously, the others being Suzy Menkes of the International Herald Tribune and Anna Wintour of US Vogue, who were to clock up two OBEs and a DBE. Hilary was twice named British Fashion Journalist of the Year. Two obituaries remark that she pursued work like “a Stakhanovite” implying exceptional efficiency.

Early yesterday, Hilary’s 77th birthday, she died from a heart attack while in hospital. Our mutual colleague Penelope McDonald recalls the laughs they had enjoyed over the years – especially at the annual Fenwick Christmas shopping evenings to which Hils attracted leading designers. She devoted much time to inspiring and mentoring young fashionistas. In 2002, the artist Georg Meyer-Wiel remembers his graduation show in menswear at the RCA because he met big names such as Mary Quant and Issey Miyake in the company of Hils at the gala.

When I was editing the student edition of the Telegraph in 1988 Hils was keen to shoot a winter fashion feature with students in the coldest place in the UK. Amazingly this apparently proved not to be Scotland but the Tyneside estuary which receives freezing oceanic winds from the east. Consequently there we were in December fitting out some model students at Newcastle’s Uni and Poly with warm winter wear for our pages. In about 2002 my colourful Blitz Kid friend Judith Frankland recalls meeting Hils in Paris at a party for John Malkovich. She says: “I was dressed up as you can well imagine and she came straight over to me and said ‘I have to know who you are’ and smiled and told me to contact her if I was in London. Of course I didn’t have to ask who she was! It’s a good job she hadn’t seen me mere minutes later as my platform departed from the rest of my shoe, grrr!”

Fashion editors, tributes, obituary, OBE, Hilary Alexander, photos,

As captured by Google: The umpteen faces of fashion queen Hilary Alexander

Paul Hill, foreign desk manager at the Daily Telegraph, also recalls: “She used to organise the Christmas shows in Canada Square, taking over the canteen for the day and putting catwalks in and often filming them for DVD circulation to staff. I was in one (as one of five Elvis impersonators singing appallingly badly All Shook Up) and Hils was everywhere with what started as a full bottle of scotch, but by the end of the show was almost empty and she was a very happy and relaxed director! She would inveigle all sorts of seriously-minded staffers into these annual events, famously Lord Bill Deedes to dress up – make-up and all – as Mick Jagger to mime along to Brown Sugar.”

In today’s Vogue obituary Anna Wintour says: “Hilary was irrepressible in everything she did. She lived life to the fullest and her reporting on fashion was just as committed. I threw a party for her in Paris when she retired – except she never retired! Hilary could never quite leave an industry that she loved so much.”

In the Telegraph obituary Lisa Armstrong writes: “To sit next to Hilary at the shows to be treated to an experience that was a unique blend of massage and wrestling match. Bobbing to the music – whatever it was – she was always the first to bounce out of her seat as the models were still filing off the catwalks, the ears of Uncle Bulgaria’s hat flopping away as she stormed the catwalk to get backstage before everyone else. She would do anything to get a story.”

Our set of photos here from a Google search for Hils sums up her eternal exuberance (“I will not stop flying. I will not stop smoking.”). Her home life in Dulwich was surprisingly private. Born in New Zealand, Hils was educated in Hong Kong and, having ended an unfortunate early marriage, she leaves no partner. Her funeral could be a starry event, though my own 2011 tribute in the link below is probably unbeatable!

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
2011, The incomparable Hilary Alexander makes her own front-page news as she leaves the Telegraph

Fashion editors, tributes, obituary, Vivienne Westwood, Hilary Alexander,

Hilary’s last profile photo posted at Twitter 2022… Hils celebrates her retirement with Andreas Kronthaler and Vivienne Westwood in 2011

➢ “More stamina than teenagers. To sit next to her at the shows was truly an experience” – Daily Telegraph obituary

➢ “A discerning eye for detail and relentless pursuit of a story made her name” – The Times obituary… She was on first-name terms with many designers but never forgot the readers for whom she was writing. “It’s hard for the average person to decide what to wear,” she said. “Our role is to take the threads that come through from the catwalk shows and say ‘This is the way to wear things’.” She saw fashion as more than mere style and was instrumental in making it newsworthy. “It’s not frivolous – any industry that employs half a million people and generates billions a year is a serious news subject.

Fashion editors, tributes, obituary, OBE, HM Elizabeth II, Hilary Alexander,

Fashion royalty: Hilary Alexander was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by the Queen in 2013… Hils sports a black silk dress with a jazzy poppy print to coordinate with the OBE ribbon



➤ The incomparable Hilary Alexander makes her own front-page news by throwing in the trowel

Hilary Alexander, tributes, Daily Telegraph, fashion,

Farewell to Hils: the spoof front page every good hack deserves to cap their career

❚ YOU MIGHT EXPECT a diamond-encrusted Rolex watch from the chief exec when you retire as fashion director of a national newspaper running a 20-strong team chasing trends on five continents. Plus a rope of Chanel pearls from a secret admirer. You’ve already been feted at a starry slap-up reception hosted by your employer and the British Fashion Council for your 26 years’ worth of being an international icon of the fashion press. But the one present you’re really never quite braced for comes when you invite all your fellow hacks down to the local tavern to see you off the premises. It is the best present in every hack’s career: an unholy spoof front page starring you, in which all your “friends” rib you mercilessly over your really annoying habits, and your little foibles — such as the menagerie of animal furs you’ve worn on your head from racoons to foxes to ferrets. Or for the sake of argument, your taste for Marlboro Lights, Maasai jewellery, a straight bob cut by Warren at Nicky Clark, and large glasses of wine beside your laptop while you tweet hourly to your 183,000 followers.

Hilary Alexander, doll, British Fashion Council

Attraction at the British Fashion Council party: a “mini Hilary” doll loaned by Matches. Guests queued all night to be photographed with her. © Clara Molden

The highly sarcastic page will make you cringe when it’s presented in the pub, because they obviously choose the worst possible picture of you they can find. But you preen secretly as you bask in the indirect admiration of your workmates — which will never before have been expressed to your face by anybody in the highly competitive newspaper business — and you’ll frame your impudent page and hang it in the bathroom with pride. It is better than any Oscar recognising a lifetime’s achievement.

Last night near The Daily Telegraph’s office in Victoria, it was the turn of the doyenne of British fashionistas, Hilary Alexander. If she’d worked on a glossy magazine the page would have contained a handful of satirical coverlines. But a broadsheet newspaper page can hold about 2,000 well-crafted words. Having dealt with Hils’ trademark hats in row of pictures across the page top, a selection of stories dug for dirt. We read of a recent fashion emergency which brought chaos to Heathrow airport when the star writer’s dongle would not work and World Travellers piled in to help. “This is nothing,” the doyenne commented. “I once sent copy on a Hussein Chalayan show from a nightclub in Brixton at 1am.”

Marc Jacobs , Hilary Alexander

“Me and Hils?” Marc Jacobs wants to be photographed with Hilary in the tribute video

Another story deals with her passion for cats which rank up there with Karl, Stella and Donatella. Then there’s a report from Karl Lagerfeld’s allotment where he is pictured sporting green wellies, while another attributes a craze for sparkly hairspray to the “Hilary effect” following a TV appearance. But the splash, as we pros call the lead story on the front page, reveals Hils’ secret yen since her schooldays — she always wanted to be an archeologist in the footsteps of Jacquetta Hawkes, who also favoured a neat line in floppy brimmed hats while digging for relics. Funnily enough, the one present Hils could have done with last night was a trowel.

Karl Lagerfeld, Hilary Alexander, spoof

Hils and Karl: this report is entirely a spoof report from her Telegraph tribute, Monsieur Lagerfeld, in case you were wondering

The breathless splash tells us: “Telegraph editors are braced for a run of front-page stories about developments in ancient Babylon. With Hilary Alexander shifting her sights from fashion to archeology, midnight calls to the news desk are expected reporting events in Mesopotamia. “The writing is on the wall for Nebuchadnezzar,” she may be shouting down the line. Another day she could bring news of a rehang in the gardens of Babylon.” And so on.

The truth is of course that Hils will continue to write about fashion as a freelance, just try to stop her. A close second-best present was a fabulous series of personal tributes in the specially commissioned video first screened at the Fashion Council bash earlier in June, where everyone danced to Hilary’s playlist of Abba, Queen and dance anthems long after midnight (she is an inveterate nightclubber). Friends had a chance to view the video last night at the St George’s Tavern. In it BFC chairman Harold Tillman says unreservedly: “She deserves the highest honour you could possibly give somebody in her profession — she is brilliant.”

➢ Watch the whirlwind Hils in this affectionate starry tribute to her talents and see if you don’t agree:

➢ View a Telegraph Online video of the lavish party celebrating Hilary Alexander’s career, plus a slideshow of the evening:

Suzy Menkes, Hilary Alexander, Anna Wintour, party

British doyennes among fashion commentators: Suzy Menkes (International Herald Tribune), Hilary Alexander (Daily Telegraph), Anna Wintour (US Vogue) caught on video celebrating Hils’ retirement

2023 R.I.P.

➢ Elsewhere at Shapersofthe80s:
2023, Fond farewells to the glorious Queen
of the Telegraph fashion pages