Lorna Koski, longtime WWD assistant editor, dies at 69 – WWD
Lorna Koski, former longtime associate editor of WWD and W magazines, died May 20 at the age of 69.
A memorial service is being considered for a later date, according to his sister, Judy Bruce.
Koski died in her West Village apartment of pulmonary thromboembolism due to deep vein thrombosis caused by relative immobility, following surgery for a fractured right ankle after a fall.
Koski’s wise features and soft voice belied an irrepressible individuality and a treasure trove of knowledge she was only inclined to exercise when asked or casually mention in conversation. In an industry filled with designer brands, the redhead Koski was probably the only person who had no qualms about wearing a “Bo Peep”-inspired beanie and hoop skirt in the office and on the streets of New York City.
After graduating magna cum laude from Harvard University (Radcliffe College) in 1974 with a BA in English Literature (British and Commonwealth), she went on to earn an MA from Cambridge University in Language and Literature/ English letters – again graduated with honors.
At a time when fashion editors cared more about what they knew than who they knew, Koski was a behind-the-scenes workaholic. Also at the age when a career choice was a commitment and not a stepping stone to something else, Koski’s tenure at WWD and its then-sister publication W spanned from 1982 to 2015. In that role , she was a key member of the fashion department. , with an encyclopedic knowledge of the proper name of every sleeve, neckline, skirt or cuff in fashion history – and, with a photographic memory, she could extract that information faster than Google. Regularly immersed in her work, and sometimes in her idiosyncrasies, Koski was often the last to stop by the office.
WWD Editorial Director James Fallon said: “Fashion is filled with memorable personalities and talented people, and Lorna ranks in the hall of fame with the best of them. His knowledge, his writing, his wit as dry as a martini, his unique sense of style – it was all quite remarkable. But so was his immense kindness and loyalty to WWD. She is and always will be unforgettable.
Relatively unfazed, she was a personality in the newsroom back when it was allowed – puffing on a cigarette until one felt she had no breath in her lungs to do so, speaking of her beloved cats or discussing the last 500 books she had just read – in one day. His penchant for cats was undeniable, as Koski would occasionally purr or meow at his colleagues just for fun and even once showed up to work on Sundays at the WWD office with one of his tabbies, which was far from protocol. the company.
Former WWD photographer Kyle Ericksen recalled how Koski liked to joke that his favorite yellow cat “Tommy” bought him jewelry, clothes, hats (including “some killer” ) and handbags. “Everything she had was new and wonderful and vintage – Tommy surprised her,” she said.
A fast reader, Koski devoured books like a Pac-Man in the library – novels, biographies, fashion stories and more – all with an insatiable curiosity that enriched the pages of WWD with the author interviews she would do. Again, his ability to capture personality in words was rare. During her career, she has interviewed countless writers, performers and designers, including Harold Bloom, Robert Gottlieb, Karl Lagerfeld, Yohji Yamamoto, Anne Rice, Domenico Dolce, Stefano Gabbana, Donatella Versace and Vicky Tiel.
Ed Nardoza, former editor of WWD, said: “The word ‘brilliant’ is so overused today that it has lost all meaning, but in Lorna Koski’s case, the word really applies.
“I remember at one point, Harold Bloom, the Yale literary critic who was probably the most important literary critic of the last 50 years in America, and he had come out with a new book, and we were like, ‘Who can send us to interview Harold Bloom? and we said, ‘Let’s try Lorna.’ Not only did Lorna know who Harold Bloom was but what his significance was and she read most of his books She went to interview Bloom and came back with a scholarly, informed, witty story and she charmed Bloom into a great interview. Her cultural IQ was so high, she mostly read all these authors, and she just came back with a little gem of history.
Nardoza recalls one time when Karl Lagerfeld was in town for a few days and others were on a mission. “We said, ‘Who’s going to follow Karl with all his crazy, esoteric references and fast delivery? And refer to all sorts of fashion icons? We sent Lorna. She did a quick afternoon interview with Karl Lagerfeld and it was just awesome.
Former WWD editor Mort Sheinman said, “She was an extraordinarily hard worker, working long hours and always available when you needed her.”
Koski eventually moved on to writing obituaries for publication, bringing her vast knowledge of fashion history, culture, arts and society to this genre where capturing a personality is a challenge. Her portfolio of obituaries for WWD included those of Elizabeth Taylor, Nora Ephron, Helen Gurley Brown, Helen Rochas, Liz Smith, Judith Leiber and Aileen Mehle. After leaving WWD in 2015, she worked as a freelance writer and continued to write obituaries for WWD.
Born in Lihue on the island of Kauai in Hawaii, Koski was adopted, as were her siblings, the aforementioned Bruce, one brother Paul, and another brother Victor, the latter of whom predeceased her. Their English teacher mother had taught girls in India before marrying their father, an electronics technician who installed weather stations for the US Weather Bureau. After some time in Guayaquil, Ecuador, the family settled in Pendleton, Oregon. Lorna Koski’s childhood interests covered music (a first violinist), theater, racing and, of course, scholastics.
Growing up, the family traveled the western states, Mexico, Canada and Alaska on road trips. “Our father was very frugal and we didn’t stay in hotels. We had a small tent attached to the station wagon,” Paul said.
WWD’s longtime former editor Bridget Foley recalled how, in an open newsroom, “much is heard and heard”, and “Koski’s dry-witted asides on the daily buzz were often hilarious”. She said: ‘Lorna had an interest in everything, which made her an engaging conversationalist and great at her job. She could add sparkle to the blandest fashion copy, dressing it in references ranging from Baudelaire to the Backstreet Boys.
“Speaking of dressing up, Lorna’s personal fashion aesthetic was eclectic. She had a penchant for pastels, worn in dissonant compilations of vintage and new pieces. The daily train ride from Brooklyn didn’t deter her from wearing looks that often featured a ’40s line (Easter egg hue) and occasionally a veiled cocktail hat,” Foley said, “There’s Years ago, when NYFW ended on a Friday, we fashion team members would drop our final reviews, “close” what was then still the newspaper, and go out for a celebratory dinner. One season we went to a restaurant with a piano bar. Lorna pulled a Michelle Pfeiffer and jumped on the piano. She sang beautifully. I don’t remember the song, but the skirt welcomed a kick in the leg.
Another former WWD editor, Dianne Pogoda, said, “A lot of people excel in one area; Lorna was a rare professional who could combine writing, editing skills and an encyclopedic knowledge of general culture, film and the fashion industry – past and present – and put it all into context. I learned a lot from her.”
Former W magazine creative director Dennis Freedman said, “Lorna was like no one else. She seemed to inhabit a very special world. At a time when there is so much uniformity, it was so refreshing to know Lorna. “Unique” only begins to describe her – bright, mysterious, kind, fragile. She was one of those people who was only known by her first name.
Nicole Phelps, Global Director of Vogue Runway and Vogue Business, recalled her early days working with Koski at WWD and volunteering as guides at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden: “The Fairchild press room at 7 West 34th Street was a colorful place. in the late 90s, but no one was more colorful than Lorna Koski. I was on the W Magazine and WWD Accessories desk, and she edited my pieces. We were discussing my copy and she was trying on the flamboyant hats we called for the shoots. He was a mentor who became a friend. Lorna was a true eccentric – acerbic when she wanted to be, but kind and generous on the other hand. She gave great gifts. And she never failed to make an impression, including at my wedding in 2007, which she attended in a cloud of fuchsia tulle, which really won over our out-of-town guests.
For the past few years, Koski was “an incredible babysitter” after his wife Kathleen Berger had a lung transplant, Berger’s brother Warren said. “It’s really dominated Lorna’s life for the past two years.”
The couple married several years ago but first connected as colleagues at WWD in the 1980s. Longtime Newsweek editor Berger died in January and the loss “seemed to have a really, big effect, causing Koski to pull out,” Warren said. “She hasn’t really recovered.”
As one of the regulars at Barrow’s Pub, senior bartender Robert Shapiro remembers Koski as “a highly educated old-school editor.” But she was not an uncommon customer at Barrow’s Pub, which has the most eclectic clientele. She fitted in perfectly. She loved it. She would sing. She was playing music – old Frank Sinatra. She would dance,” he said. “She was very much part of the Barrow family.”
He added: “She was trying to enjoy the last years of her life. She just let her health go unfortunately. She didn’t take good care of herself.”
As for how Koski would have liked to be remembered, his sister said, “I hear that all the time – she was fun to be around. She was just fun.
Koski is survived by his sister, brother and many nieces and nephews. In lieu of flowers, Bruce suggested any donations be made to a cat rescue organization in Brooklyn or Manhattan.