Elsa Klensch, who was among the first to bring fashion to television screens with CNN’s “Style with Elsa Klensch” in the 1980s, has died aged 92 in New York City, CNN has confirmed.
For two decades, she gave CNN viewers a front row seat on runways around the world, including New York, London, Milan and Paris.
“There’s nothing as exciting as a good collection. I can walk in like a lot of other fashion editors — tired, depressed, fed up,” Klensch said on her 2000 show The World is Changing. .”
Klensch was born in Sydney, Australia. She studied journalism at the University of Sydney and started her career in London in the 1960s, but her reporting took her to several places, including Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong, where she worked. as a freelance writer for Women’s Wear Daily. In the 1970s, Klensch worked as a fashion editor and reported for WWD, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar in New York.
She joined the Cable News Network in 1980, hosting and producing “Style with Elsa Klensch” until 2001. Klensch’s weekly reports covering the global fashion industry, in which she brought designers in front of the camera, have developed a devoted following and made him show one of the most watched networks in the 1980s.
Elsa Klensch attends Cynthia Steffe’s fashion show during New York Fashion Week in 2005. Credit: Thos Robinson/Getty Images
Long before the rise of social media, fashion bloggers and influencers, Klensch was one of the only news sources dedicated to fashion. Her outspoken talk put the latest fashion trends into context for a mainstream audience, often pulling back the curtain on one of the world’s most exclusive industries.
Few fashion industry luminaries could escape the attention of her film crew. Klensch has interviewed many of the world’s leading designers, including Miuccia Prada, Marc Jacobs and Karl Lagerfeld, as well as models such as Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington.
“When we started, maybe for the first five years, we were the only TV crew (at fashion shows),” Klensch said on his show in 2000. “The designers really didn’t understand the concept of television.”
When Klensch arrived at the fashion shows, everyone knew, said Walter Imparato, her photojournalist for more than a decade. Many designers expected her to interview them behind the scenes of their work.
“We rolled, we were like a rock band,” Imparato, now a senior photojournalist at CNN, told CNN. “The photographers waited for hours and we exploded.”
Industry icons and ordinary households tuned in to watch “Style with Elsa Klensch,” and it became one of the highest-rated shows on CNN’s weekend lineup.
“Watching ‘Style with Elsa Klensch’ was more than just TV to me — it was a religion,” designer Jeremy Scott told CNN via email. “I remember, after starting my own career in Paris, the excitement and sense of accomplishment I felt when Elsa came backstage to interview me for the very first time – it was a moment loop for me and I feel so lucky to have been able to tell her myself how meaningful her work was to me growing up – the window she gave me into a world I so craved to be a part.”
“It was so exciting and privileged to be covered by Elsa,” designer Anna Sui wrote in an email to CNN. “I would ask people to stop me on the street after seeing her show. As formal as it was on air, behind the scenes she was very warm, always remembering my family and sharing stories about her days in Hong Kong.”
Designer Diane von Furstenberg called Klensch a “trailblazer,” telling CNN via email that “her voice was distinctive and she was a fantastic reporter.”
Klensch has received numerous industry accolades during his career. In 1987, she was recognized by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) for her work in fashion television. She was also elected to the Best Dressed Hall of Fame, joining the ranks of Audrey Hepburn, Yves Saint Laurent and Anna Wintour.
Far from being fluffy, fashion was serious business for Klensch and she covered the industry with notable rigor. During an interview with The Look Online, conducted after her show was no longer aired, she said: “I think design should be treated with respect because it’s such an important part of our lives. ‘Good design makes our lives more livable, it makes us happier, it makes it easier for us to function.’
Klensch met her husband, Charles Klensch, then Saigon bureau chief for ABC News, in the 1960s. They were married in Saigon during the Vietnam War.
After “Style with Elsa Klensch” ended, she continued to write and lecture on fashion. She has also written several detective novels.