Carmel Snow

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Carmel Snow (27 August 1887 – 1961) was the editor of the American edition of Harper's Bazaar from 1934 to 1958 and, after her retirement, the chairman of the magazine's editorial board.

Personal life[edit]

Carmel Snow, originally Carmel White, was born on August 27, 1887. She was born and raised in Dalkey with her mother, Annie White, her father Peter White and her five siblings, Christine, Tom, James, Victor and Peter. She was named after Our Lady of Mount Carmel.[1]

Carmel's family were born in an era where Irish Nationalist feelings were vigorous and her father, Peter White, was in favour of Home Rule. He worked for the Irish Woolen Manufacturing and Export company in Dublin when he was asked by Sir John Campbell Hamilton Gordon, also known as Lord Aberdeen, to be honorary secretary of the Irish Industries Association. It was due to this that he began making frequent trips to America, unknowing that this is where his family would end up.[1]

In February 1893, Peter White made his final trip to America, where he became severely ill with lung problems. Although he was strong willed, he later caught an pneumonia and died on April 7, 1893.[1]

Shortly after Carmel's father's death, her mother was offered to the take the role of Peter White. She did not hesitate and promptly enrolled Carmel and Christine into Loretto Abbey, so she could go to America to accept her new role. The girls were later sent on to live with their grandparents, Susannah and Thomas Mayne, along with their youngest brother James. Carmel referred to Susannah as "darling grandmother".[1]

The family eventually moved to America. Annie at first, but a year later Carmel and Christine followed. The two daughters arrived October 27, 1894. Carmel was only seven years old at the time. They went to school in Davenport, Iowa. When Carmel was not in school, you could find her with her nose in a book.[1]

Carmel Studied in New York and Brussels before she became an assistant in the family business in Fox & Co. Four years after her offered job in Vogue magazine she married a lawyer, George Palen Snow. She married in her mother's home where the ceremony was performed by Rev. Henry F. Hammer of St. Patrick's Cathedral on November 11, 1926. She wore a gown of cream white satin trimmed with seed pearls and old Burano lace that has been in her family for many years.[2]

She later had three daughters with him, Carmel, Mary Palen and Brigid. It was suggested that one of her children had suffered from schizophrenia but was not confirmed.[3]

She later retired in the late 1950s at the age of 70 due to heavy drinking, fashion tastes changing in the world, and the risk of being let go by the company. She temporarily settled in Ireland after her retirement but eventually came back to New York.

Carmel Snow died in her sleep at home of an apparent heart attack at 73 years old in 1961. She was in the process of writing her autobiography when she passed away.[4]


She was born at Dalkey, Ireland, daughter of Peter White, the head of the Irish Wool Manufacturing and Export Company, and his wife, the former Annie Mayne. Carmel White moved with her family to the United States as a child, after her father's death, when her newly widowed mother was called upon to replace him as the head of the Irish pavilion of the Chicago World's Fair. Carmel had several siblings, including Victor White, a painter who decorated the Roof Ballroom of the St. Regis Hotel, and Christine (White) Holbrook, who became the editor in chief of Better Homes and Gardens. She also three additional brothers, Thomas Justin White, Peter Desmond White and James Mayne White.

Carmel White married a prominent society lawyer, George Palen Snow, in 1926 and had three daughters—Carmel, Mary Palen, and Brigid.


Carmel Snow was influenced by her mother's career; working at the T.M & J.M Fox store, where Carmel stated, that it was there that her “apprenticeship as an editor had begun”.[1] Carmel traveled abroad to places like Paris, alongside her mother, to view collections which would essentially inspire her. Snow went to work as a fashion editor at American Vogue in 1921 and joined Harper's Bazaar 11 years later. She famously described her goal at the latter publication as creating a magazine for "well-dressed women with well-dressed minds".[1] Her influence at both magazines went far beyond fashion reportage: she brought cutting-edge art, fiction, photography, and reporting into the American home.

Snow was particularly gifted at discovering new talent, as well as fostering new avenues of exploration among previously-established artists. In the 1920s, she worked closely with Edward Steichen, already a world-famous photographer, helping him to apply his talents to fashion photography, which he did to great effect, well into the 1930s.

In 1933 she influenced Martin Munkácsi, the great Hungarian photojournalist, to take his first fashion shots; she brought him and the socialite-model Lucile Brokaw to a windy, autumnal beach and, in the course of an afternoon, Munkácsi created history

due to the uniqueness of the pose by the model, which contrasted with the usual mannequin-like pose.

Carmel Snow attended an Art Directors Club of New York exhibition in 1934, where she discovered Alexey Brodovitch, referring to his exhibition as a revelation, describing "pages that bled beautifully, cropped photographs, typography and design that were bold and interesing".[1] Snow later offered Brodovitch a job as Harper's Bazaar's Art Director.

Among those influenced by Snow is Diana Vreeland, who went on to become one of the greatest editors-in-chief at Vogue. The pair met in St. Regis Hotel in New York, where Vreeland was seen dancing in a white Chanel dress, accessorised with flowers in her hair. Snow immediately offered Vreeland a job as she saw potential.

The three of them, Snow, Brodovitch, and Vreeland turned Harper's Bazaar into the most admired magazine of the last century.

She played a key role in discovering the American fashion photographer Gleb Derujinsky, encouraging him to travel around the world and explore his more adventurous artistic ideas, such as shooting on top of Nemrud Dagh Mountain in Turkey. The models were usually styled by fashion editor Diana Vreeland in expensive gowns, creating a dramatic contrast to the diverse backgrounds of the photographs, which included deserts, junkyards of cars and airports. Derujinsky was interested in the entire picture, paying as much attention to the scenery as the model and the fashion, rather than restricting himself to studio shots.

Another inspiration to Carmel Snow, was one of the greatest designers of the 20th century, Cristóbal Balenciaga. She saw great talent in his work, and herself often wore his collections of clothing. She urged the people of the fashion world to also notice his talent, and she did just that by turning over the Paris issue of Harper’s Bazaar to Balenciaga’s collection.

Among others, who's careers Snow influenced are: Andy Warhol, Maeve Brennan, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Truman Capote, Jean Cocteau, Cecil Beaton, Christian Dior (his 1947 debut collection she dubbed the "New Look"), Carson McCullers, Kenneth Tynan, and numerous others. She also discovered Lauren Bacall and put her on the cover of Harper's Bazaar, an act that brought the unknown model to the attention of Hollywood.

Snow once famously said that "Elegance is good taste plus a dash of daring." She lived that saying in every aspect of her professional life, until her forced retirement from Bazaar, when she was in her seventies. Her position as editor in chief was taken over by her niece Nancy White. She died in New York City, New York.

As to why her reputation faded, while Vreeland went on to become a legend, photographer Richard Avedon (quoted in A Dash of Daring: Carmel Snow and Her Life in Fashion, Art, and Letters, a biography by Penelope Rowlands that was published in 2005) said: "She was older, right? And she died before stardom was the thing". He added, however, "Carmel Snow taught me everything I know." Many others, and particularly photographers, also credited her with helping them to hone their craft. Henri Cartier-Bresson, with whom she worked closely, beginning in the 1930s, described Snow as "magic". And when the great Hungarian photographer known as Brassai heard of Snow's retirement, he was said to have abandoned photography for good.

Writing career and work[edit]

Carmel Snow is seen as a towering figure within fashion today, former protege of Condé Nast, she is said to of rejuvenated Harper’s Baazar, a once “tired and dowdy” magazine into an “admired and influential publication”. From humble beginnings living in Dalkey and working in Paris for the Red Cross during World War I, Snow reinvented herself into the fashion mogul we see today. After the war however, Snow reconnected with her fashion roots, established by her mother, Annie Snow, who assisted in the running of the T.M. & J.M. Fox Store, where she previously recalled this point in her life as, “My apprenticeship as an editor had begun”[1] as she, alongside her mother attended couture shows in Paris, in order to spot new trends hitting the runways in Paris, using this as inspiration for their future designs.

Carmel however strived to write about the shows she had witnessed whilst in Paris, instead of following in her mother’s footsteps. When the opportunity arose to write a piece for the New York Times she took it, the article title was “What Well-dressed Woman are Wearing”, from this her passion for writing became apparent.

From her numerous connections such as Conde Nast, Carmel in 1921 was appointed assistant fashion editor for the highly acclaimed magazine, ‘Vogue’. She became a rising star within the fashion world as she had an eye for styling due to her mothers influence and within 5 years became the Fashion Editor for the publication.[5]

In the beginning of the 1930s Snow was offered another position in the rival house to Conde Nast, within the magazine Harpers Baazar, granted to her by her brother 'Tom White', general manager of the publication. She was eager to challenge herself, although this bold decision severed her relationship with Nast, she took the job and secured her position as Editor and Chief.[6]

Whilst in her position as Editor & Chief of Harpers Bazaar she dedicated a large portion of her time to fashion photography, as models previously were merely seen as mannequins, however, Snow wanted to revolutionize this aspect within the fashion industry, from this ideal she convinced the Hungarian photographer and personal discovery ‘Martin Munkacsi' in the December issue of ‘palm beach’ to capture images of the model running towards the camera, showing motion for the first time overall creating an energetic atmosphere, altering fashion photography forever.


At the time it was more common for the males in the family to receive full educations and the females to obtain a partial one, but mainly Carmel would help her mother in the shop. The first school was a convent in Davenport, Iowa. After issued arose there, Carmel was sent to Dearborn Seminary in Chicago, which is where Carmel learned of non-Catholics, She spent three years learning at Dearborn. Carmel and her sister then attended a boarding school in Winnetka Illinois which she says was their “happiest school years”. In 1903 she finished in a convent in Brussels, The Soeurs de Sainte- Marie is where she mastered her understanding of French.[1] Carmel mother instated that both her daughter's success was from the education was because White pushed for which is not the case as their mother was persisted to get them to stop with their education and become proper ladies years beforehand.