With WWD Free of Condé, the Gloves Can Come Off

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Yesterday, when the news that Fairchild Publications — the Condé Nast–owned group comprising Women’s Wear Daily, Footwear News, WWD Beauty Inc., WWD Summits and — was being sold to Penske Media Corporation, it seems appropriate that most people in the industry found out via a WWD news alert. As regular readers know, WWD is the industry source where Armani’s quarterly earnings run cheek by jowl alongside an array of scoops about fashion-week front-row denizens. It’s known as the “fashion bible” for a reason. (Full disclosure: I worked there from 2006 to 2010.) The deal also gives Penske ownership over Fairchild’s rich archive, which is already a resource for design houses and researchers, and could be a gold mine for all manner of projects — retrospective books, documentaries, you name it.

The company has been owned by Condé Nast parent company Advance Publications since 1999, and acquired a considerable halo from the association. Thus, when yesterday’s news broke, many saw the rupture as a dire sign. But Penske, which also has Variety and Deadline in its portfolio, makes no small amount of sense as a home for the trade paper. In a perfect world, WWD could make a return to the John Fairchild era, where the reporters took no prisoners. Fashion needs the kind of gossipy primary source — one based on old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting — that isn’t beholden to other, more cautious publications. In the right hands, the paper could have the freedom to become even more of a must-read.