Carmel Snow’s Impact on the World of Fashion

By Samuel Phineas Upham

Most fashion magazines are the way they are today because of the work of Carmel Snow, who was one of the founding editors for Harper’s Bazaar. Snow came from a an upper-middle class family. Her father owned an Irish Wool Manufacturing and Export Company, which might have contributed to her love of fashion.

She worked for a portion of her life for a famous dress maker in Manhattan, T.M. & J.M. Fox, which her mother owned. There, she developed a critical eye that would serve her well throughout her career.

That truly was Carmel Snow’s gift. She could see talent and opportunity wherever it happened to be, or she was at least good at putting herself in situations where she might notice such things. She also excelled at fostering that talent and encouraging artists and staff to explore new avenues. She took the already famous Edward Steichen and applied his talent for photography to the world of fashion, turning him into one of several iconic fashion cameramen who continue to influence the industry today.

She orchestrated the first outdoor fashion shoot, a success that was thought to be nearly impossible to pull off. At the time, carefully staged mannequins were the norm for the budding art of fashion photography. Anything less than the perfect shot was a tremendous venture into the unknown.

After noticing a young Diana Vreeland dancing atop the roof at the St. Regis Hotel in New York, Snow gave voice to the woman who would later coin the term “pizzazz”. She influenced Andy Warhol’s art, Truman Capote’s writing, and Christian Dior’s debut collection.

Yet Snow gradually faded from the public eye. Her death came before the obsessive tabloid age, and while she was a figure of that movement she never gained the public fame she deserved. Instead, Snow is fondly remembered by the staff at Harper’s, and the fashion world at large.

Samuel Phineas Uphamis an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Samual Phineas Upham website or Linkedin page.