Cathy Horyn to leave New York Times

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Cathy Horyn, The New York Times chief fashion critic, is resigning from the paper effective immediately.

Times executive editor Jill Abramson and Styles section editor Stuart Emmrich made the announcement in a memo to staff Friday morning.

Horyn cited personal reasons for her decision to leave. Her longtime companion, the former Liz Claiborne executive Art Ortenberg, has been ill recently.

“It was an incredibly difficult personal decision for Cathy, but one I understand and completely agree with,” Emmrich told Capital. “Though not all designers agreed with her, and more than a few were angered by her reviews, even the ones who banned her from their shows or took out full page ads in WWD ultimately respected the intellectual heft of her reviews and the unquestioned integrity she brought to her work.”

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Horyn left Europe during the most recent round of men’s shows this month and did not return for the couture shows in Paris, instead offering her assessments remotely. The paper made greater use of reviews by Suzy Menkes from sister publication The International New York Times at the time, a model it is expected to continue during the globe-spanning month’s worth of ready-to-wear shows that will begin in New York next week.

Horyn has worked for the paper for 15 years and has served as its fashion critic for more than a decade. As chief critic and columnist at the paper, Horyn has occupied one of the fashion industry’s true critical pulpits. Her tell-it-like-it-is style and occasional iconoclastic critique saw her pierce her share of designer egos  over the years. Giorgio Armani once banned her from his shows, and Oscar de la Renta once took out a counterpoint advertisement in Women’s Wear Daily when he was unhappy with a review that referred to him as a “hot dog.” Both designers later made nice, though Horyn is still serving what appears to be a lifetime ban by the current Yves Saint Laurent creative director Hedi Slimane.

But she’s also championed  young talent, including the Belgian designer Raf Simons, who recently took over one of the fashion world’s most vaunted gigs at the helm of Dior. Horyn has also lent her fashion expertise elsewhere at the Times, writing magazine stories on the luxury department store Barneys and Stella McCartney, among other subjects.

“She’s been my teacher these last four years in Styles,” Emmrich said. “It’s really been a master class in the ways of the of the fashion world.”

Horyn's departure means that the paper's New York-based fashion coverage will have been remade totally between the last round of ready-to-wear shows in September and the upcoming season. Eric Wilson, who reported on the fashion industry and served as something of a deputy critic, left the paper in October to join Time Inc.'s InStyle. The Times recently hired John Koblin from Deadspin and Style.com deputy editor Matthew Schneier in the wake of Wilson's departure.

Emmrich said that he would immediately begin interviewing candidates for Horyn's replacement.

UPDATE: Read Abramson and Emmrich's memo below:

Dear Colleagues:

It is with both deep sadness over her departure and immense gratitude for the legacy she leaves behind that we announce that Cathy Horyn, the paper’s chief fashion critic since 1999, is leaving The Times. Cathy’s reasons for leaving are personal ones, to spend more with her partner, Art Ortenberg, who has had health problems, and whom she feels would benefit greatly from her increased presence at home.

How do we measure the impact that Cathy has made at The Times? Is it in the 1,123 bylined pieces she has written in the past 15 years? The promising designers she discovered, the unoriginal ones she dismissed, the talents that she celebrated in ways that illuminated their creative process for a readership that ranged from the executive offices of LVMH to the bargain shoppers at Barneys Warehouse? We do so in all of those ways to mark the work of a woman who is the preeminent fashion critic of her generation and who has set an almost impossible standard for those who may follow.

Cathy’s is a unique voice in the fashion world, one that was immediately announced by one of her very first reviews in The Times, of the couture shows in Paris in January, 1999. Here is how she led off that piece:

Just about everyone who comes to the haute couture collections knows that Nan is Nan Kempner, that Deeda is Deeda Blair and that Liliane Bettencourt, who was seated Wednesday in the front row at the Yves Saint Laurent show and wearing an orange muffler, is the richest woman in France. They may or may not know that the youngest couture customer at Givenchy is all of 8, or that Dodie Rosekrans, the San Francisco art patron and couture stalwart, recently bought a full-size guillotine covered with the Chanel logo for her home in Venice. But give them time. Paris is probably the only place on earth where the world's rich, titled and tucked can always count on being connected, if only through clothes.

How can you not be immediately hooked? Times readers were, and have continued to be for the past 15 years. But Cathy was more than just a fashion critic. She was also a superb reporter, one who used fashion as her lens to look into broader cultural themes, most recently in her riveting A1 piece on Jackie Kennedy's iconic pink suit, worn the day her husband was assassinated in Dallas and today shielded from public view, along with her blood-stained stockings, in a climate-controlled vault on the outskirts of Washington.

Cathy will be sorely missed by all of us in Styles and by the paper as a whole. But she is not leaving us completely: She will continue to work on a project that is dear to her heart: A book to be published by Rizzoli that chronicles how The New York Times has covered fashion from the 1850s to the first decades of the 21st century. No doubt it will be a great read.

Fondly,

Jill and Stuart