Fashion Journalist Hilary Alexander Ever the Pro
Napier-born Hilary Alexander, one of the original Fleet Street fashion journalists and former fashion director of The Daily Telegraph, who has died age 77, was a prolific reporter and writer who epitomised the fashion-loving, dizzy industry doyenne, Julia Robson writes in an obituary for Vogue.
With cigarette in hand, spectacles perched on the nose, and favourite faux-Mayan breastplate necklace clanking as she dashed to cover a fashion show – usually in heels – or to interview whichever new designer she had discovered, Alexander, a self-confessed workaholic, was a blur of activity living a life dedicated to her craft, Robson writes.
Emigrating from New Zealand, first to Australia then Hong Kong with a dream of writing for newspapers, she became a news reporter on The China Mail before being promoted to the role of fashion editor. She moved to the UK in 1982 and took up a position on The Daily Telegraph’s woman’s page (as it was then), where she remained for 26 years. Always the first to break a story (she was said to have coined the expression “supermodel”), Alexander was a loyal friend to many in fashion, including the designers Gianni Versace, Zandra Rhodes, Lee McQueen, Julien Macdonald and rising British star, Richard Quinn. All recognized not only her passion, but knew they could rely on “Hils” to keep a secret – be it about a royal wedding dress or lawsuit. Just so long as she could break the story first.
In a fashion world dominated at the time by an elite British circle, Hilary never forgot her Kiwi roots or her cool. Never a snob or sycophant, she was kept informed by a tight circle of fashion friends and remained proudest of starting the careers of those she felt had earned their place in fashion.
Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of US Vogue and Condé Nast’s global chief content officer, said: “Hilary was irrepressible in everything she did.”
Fashion designer Zandra Rhodes said: “Hilary Alexander was the epitome of amazing enthusiasm and hard work. She never gave up on a story and the research that went with it. We will never be able to fill the gap she has left.”
Original article by Julia Robson, Vogue, February 6, 2023.