Details magazine founder and cultural connector Annie Flanders died Thursday at age 82.Flanders died of natural causes at the Hollywood Hills, a Pacifica Senior Living Community, where she had been residing for several years, according to fashion writer and creative consultant Rose Apodaca. A member of The Neptune Society, as was the case with her late husband Chris, Flanders will be cremated.
Celebrations of Flanders’ life are being planned for Los Angeles and New York this spring.
As founding editor and publisher of Details, Flanders was honored in 1985 by the Council of Fashion Designers of America for her “fresh approach to journalism.”
Decades before trend forecasters, management consultant groups and algorithms dictated pop culture fashion’s force with consumers, Flanders helped guide the zeitgeist by not just observing it, but living it. Aside from grasping the ins and outs of the apparel industry’s seasonal grind from firsthand experience, Flanders also understood how fashion, art, music and Manhattan’s downtown culture collided.
Along the way she mined a slew of talents who came of age somewhere between the late Seventies and early Nineties. Anna Sui, Isabel and Ruben Toledo, Steven Meisel, Bruce Weber, Richard Tyler, Jeremy Scott, Stephen Gan, Arianne Phillips, Michael Schmidt and Patrick Kelly were among the talents that Flanders helped elevate. Perhaps the designer Betsey Johnson summed up the sentiments of many when she presented Flanders with her CFDA award, thanking her “for taking me seriously despite what I look like.”
Flanders helped expose the world to what was happening in the interlaced worlds of fashion, art, culture and more with a heavy emphasis on what the mainstream magazines weren’t covering, said Apodaca, who first caught Flanders’ attention in 1986 at the age of 18 by wearing a DIY “crazy outfit with a tutu and a ginormous green bow.”
Flanders was also an early advocate of the fight against AIDS, as a founding board member of the Design Industry Foundation for AIDS in 1984, the organization that is more commonly known as DIFFA. In that post for eight years, she helped create and co-chaired “The Love Ball,” an annual fundraiser that also showcased voguing, which Flanders featured in the pages of Details. Madonna was said to have first seen voguing at the event and later spotlighted it in her 1990 “Vogue” music video for MTV.
Flanders’ AIDS-related fundraising efforts included co-chairing the New York City edition of Live Aid, an event that spotlighted 80 designers in a fashion show that raised money for families in Ethiopia. Like much of her dealings, her connection to Africa was personal. In 1971, Flanders and her husband moved there with their young daughter Rosie to help create jobs and offset the-then minuscule rate of employment. With the help of the king of the north province of Makala, they opened a factory to make leather clothes and handbags, Apodaca said. Their mission was to teach their 300 employees how to be self sufficient and to take over the factory when their two-year commitment ended. The family returned to New York in 1973.
Born Marcia Weinraub, Flanders legally changed her first name to “Annie” in the mid-Seventies because she preferred it. While attending New York University’s School of Commerce, Accounts & Finance in the late Fifties, she majored in retail and minored in journalism. Despite living a good part of her life in Los Angeles, Flanders had an inveterate New York streak – perhaps due in part to having won a New York City pageant in 1959.
Post-NYU, her fashion experience stemmed from an early job as an assistant fashion director at Gimbels department store, selecting items for window displays and coordinating fashion shows for the Manhattan outpost and suburban locations. Flanders moved on to a buyer role at Stern department store’s 42nd Street store.
By 1967, Flanders had ventured out on her own by opening the progressive boutique Abracadabra at 243 East 60th Street. Flanders once explained that she was keen to showcase “the new fashion designers and artists, who I was told were unacceptable for department stores because they either couldn’t put up advertising money or the production was too small or they couldn’t afford to accept returns.”
In tune with the youthquake street style that was storming cities like London and Los Angeles, and the independent boutiques that were cropping up to dress them, Flanders wanted to invent her own way, according to Apodaca. The interior featured a mirrored sculpture that had been salvaged from a “Hall of Mirrors” in an abandoned amusement park in New Jersey. Flanders’ original press release for the store’s opening touted that it was located in the “Swingers District of Manhattan.” The clientele included Penelope Tree, Mia Farrow and Britt Ekland, among others. The retail spectacle garnered coverage in WWD, Vogue, The New York Times and Cosmopolitan.
In 1970, Flanders unveiled a second location at Lexington Avenue and East 51st Street, occasionally staging fashion presentations there that were televised.
After returning to the U.S. from Africa, she worked as a women’s and juniors’ buyer and merchandise manager at AG Field in Jackson Heights. During that run, she chronicled her fashion finds as a style columnist for the Soho Weekly News from 1976 through 1980. She then rallied former Soho Weekly News staffers Bill Cunningham, Stephen Saban, Dan Gershon, Ronnie Cook and others to launch Details in 1982.
Flanders once explained in an interview with The Daily Front Row how she came up with the magazine’s name in the most innocuous way. While living in Woodstock, N.Y., one afternoon her daughter returned from a friend’s house. Flanders’ questions about the friend’s family went unanswered. She reportedly advised her daughter “to get all the details” the next time that she went to somebody’s house and then jotted the word down because it would be a good name for a magazine.
With a knack for mining prominent creatives and an appreciation for the inexperienced, she set out to find new designers and give other unknown talents a place to showcase their work. What started with 48 pages evolved into 300-page issues. Flanders looked at the magazine from a wider lens than fashion incorporating writers, photographers, musicians and designers. The first issue featured six pages of Cunningham’s photographs and over time his metier could take up as much as 100 pages. The pair first met when Cunningham, who was working for WWD at that time, dropped by Abracadabra.
Although Flanders and her team crafted a downtown cultural magazine, Details had various incarnations through the years. A controlling interest was sold in 1984 to avoid a potential bankruptcy. It was sold to investor Alan Patricof in 1988, who sold it to Condé Nast year later for $2 million. Conde relaunched the title in 2000 but shuttered it completely in 2015.
After Details, Flanders relocated to the West Coast and switched tracks to work as a realtor. She also continued as a fairy godmother of sorts to creatives in fashion, art and music, continuing to entertain locals and New York City transplants and visitors in her high-rise home.
Flanders would want to be remembered for “championing independent talent and not just fashion but artists and other creatives and even individual style maskers what we would call ‘influencers’ today. She made things happen and she took pride in that. She took pride in connecting people abd creating events and parties where they could connect. And she celebrated the freaks. We all talk about that.” Apodaca said.
Flanders was predeceased by her husband as well as her brother Howard. She is survived by her daughter Rosie Edwards and husband Brendan.