Carmel Snow, the Editor of the American Edition Harper’s Bazaar, 1950_by_Richard_Avedon

Carmel Snow: The Art of Having a Fulfilling Career

Part 1: 6 Life Lessons

Carmel Snow was the editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar from 1934 to 1958 after a bold move of leaving her position as a fashion editor at Vogue. While the job title in itself is impressive, what got her there and how she used this power, is what can be studied as a formula for a great character of many qualities. Snow’s character is one of the prerequisites for experiencing the art of having a fulfilling career.

Whether one’s career is fulfilling, can only be judged by oneself. Nonetheless, history doesn’t fail as 100 years later Snow’s career moves are still very much appreciated and celebrated. We could learn a thing or two from Carmel Snow.

Not only she has had the courage and the chance to make her dreams a reality but on her way, she discovered some of the greatest visionaries of the twentieth century. She has been a revolutionary and a great contributor to the fashion industry.

Carmel White, born in the seaside Dalkey, Ireland, had a great leader figure to watch and learn from in the face of her mother. Resilient as her mother Annie, who after the unexpected passing of Carmel’s father, had to take over the management of the Irish Village Concession at the 1893 Chicago World Fair.

"World’s Columbian Exposition, Midway Plaisance, Irish Village” photograph
“World’s Columbian Exposition, Midway Plaisance, Irish Village” photo by C.D. Arnold.
[Image from Ryerson & Burnham Archives, Art Institute of Chicago.]

Learn how to blend so you can stand out

In 1903 Carmel attended school at a convent, the Soeurs de Sainte-Marie, in Brussels. This is where she mastered her understanding of French. The Whites eventually moved to Chicago, America, and later to New York.

Annie opened her own shop and became the dressmaker to the wealthy New York socialites. The business took off and Carmel would travel twice a year to Paris with her mother to get the latest looks from the new French collections.

Say Yes to opportunities

One of those trips to Paris was the reason for Carmel to start working at Vogue. She was asked to take notes during the fashion shows for writer Harrydele Hallmark, writing a column for The New York Times under the name Anne Rittenhouse, as she fell ill and needed a replacement last minute.

Carmel agreed and Hallmark was so grateful for her good job that offered to introduce Snow to the editor of Vogue- Edna Woolman Chase. Snow was hired as an assistant editor at Vogue in 1921 (at age 34).

Elegance is good taste, plus a dash of daring.

Carmel Snow

Follow Your Intuition

It was said that both, Chase and Condé Nast, were prepping Snow to be the next editor in chief of Vogue when Chase was to retire. Nonetheless, Snow decided to leave Vogue for Bazaar at the end of 1932. As dramatic as this might have appeared we can see today that she took the right decision as Chase stayed at Vogue until 1952. We could say Snow kick-started her own career as she boldly decided to take this new path of freedom.

Carmel Snow in her office at Harper's Bazaar
Carmel Snow in her office at Harper’s Bazaar

Be Authentic

Snow is known for leaving a mark on the careers of the likes of Cristóbal Balenciaga, Christian Dior, and Hubert de Givenchy. The latest she proclaimed as the enfant terrible of couture. Givenchy very much lived up to this description as he was unconventional and striking with his unorthodox design ideas, he was acknowledged as a genius of his time.

When Dior launched his post-war silk ‘Bar’ suit in 1947, Snow named it the ‘New Look’, which famously stuck after she exclaimed, “It’s such a new look!”.

Balenciaga had just opened his couture house on Avenue George V in Paris when Snow noticed him (August 1937). Later he became her favorite designer and Snow would dress mostly in Cristóbal’s suits.

Carmel Snow and Cristóbal Balenciaga
Carmel Snow and Cristóbal Balenciaga in 1952

Lift Others Up

With that said, let’s take a quick look at all the amazing talents that we might not have known in the way we know them today if it was not for her ability to spot emerging talent. It is, of course, arguable whether or not they would have ‘made it’ anyway but what is not arguable is that Carmel Snow did help to push them in front of the eyeballs of the sophisticated reader of Bazaar.

Find anything and everything into the most elaborate to this day research on Carmel’s work, love, and life. All intertwined into ‘A Dash of Daring: Carmel Snow and Her Life In Fashion, Art, and Letters‘ by Penelope Rowlands.

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Create the Right Connections

Among those lucky ones are Martin Munkacsi, Alexey Brodovitch, Diana Vreeland, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Richard Avedon, and many more. Of course, these partnerships were a mutual benefit, after all Snow had set out to create the publication “for the well-dressed woman with a well-dressed mind” and for that, you need the right people.

Center front: Marie Louise Bousquet and Carmel Snow. Second row: Alexander Liberman, the art director of American Vogue at Dior front row, 1955

How did Snow work her magic to help them? Find out in ‘Carmel Snow: The Art of Having a Fulfilling Career Part 2‘.

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