NEW YORK, United States — A couple of years ago, after a dinner to celebrate the first edition of Style.com‘s print magazine, I was introduced to a sprightly, almost boyish, gentleman with salt and pepper hair and a pair of round, preppy spectacles.
“You’re The Business of Fashion?” he asked me with a sense of genuine excitement. “Well, you and I need to have a conversation, because I love what you are doing.”
An outsider to the New York publishing world, I did not know Peter Kaplan then. But we soon struck up a friendship: me, the young upstart editor; and he, the veteran who had played a pivotal role in reinvigorating The New York Observer and, more recently, in overseeing the editorial direction of Fairchild Fashion Media, the division of Condé Nast which publishes Women’s Wear Daily and Style.com.
I looked up to Peter as a mentor from the moment we first sat down and talked properly in his office, which was always piled high with magazines and newspapers. He was curious about my own professional journey and told me again and again: “Keep doing what you’re doing, and don’t lose your point of view.”
As I later learned, Peter was a real editor’s editor, having mentored and trained writers who would become key staffers at some of New York’s most important and respected media organisations, from The New Yorker to The New York Times. During his time as editor-in-chief of The Observer, he also oversaw a new column called “Sex and the City” by a then unknown Candace Bushnell. That one column came to capture and define the New York of the late 1990s, and spawned a television show of the same name that would, in turn, help brands like Jimmy Choo to gain mass prominence.
One of the things that I valued most about talking with Peter was that, despite coming from an old media background, he wasn’t afraid of the digital world and seemed rather fascinated by the opportunities it offered to a whole new generation of writers and editors. In fact, his energy and belief in BoF was one of the things that kept me going this year as I moved the publication out of my apartment and into a real office, built the team and tried to make a proper business out of it.
The last time I saw Peter was at a menswear show in Milan. He was seated across from me wearing a yellow baseball cap, which struck me as odd, as I thought of his salt and pepper hair as a personal trademark. Later, I heard that he was unwell and I thought about writing him an email to see how he was doing, but hesitated because I thought it would be indiscreet of me to ask about his health.
I was very saddened to hear that he passed away on Friday after battling with lymphoma for over a year. I am grateful that I had had the chance to know him and to see the sparkle in his eye and the energy he put into his work.
My only wish is that I had written him that email and let him know how much of an impact he had on me. I will miss him, and our conversations.