Ed Filipowski, 58, pi­o­neer of fash­ion public re­la­tions, dies


Ed Filipowski, a public re­la­tions ex­ec­u­tive who be­came one of the fash­ion in­dus­try’s most in­flu­en­tial be­hind-the-scenes play­ers through his work with com­pa­nies like Gucci, Ver­sace and Marc Ja­cobs, died Fri­day at his home in Man­hat­tan. He was 58.

Rachna Shah, a part­ner at the firm, said the cause was com­pli­ca­tions of a re­cent oper­a­tion.

In an in­dus­try of large per­son­al­i­ties, Filipowski blended into the scenery. But over the course of 30 years, he and his main part­ner, Julie Man­nion, es­tab­lished a world­wide foot­print for their firm, KCD.

They or­ga­nized fash­ion shows for Prada, turned mere store open­ings for Chanel into celebrity-fu­eled me­dia bo­nan­zas, and han­dled PR for John Gal­liano dur­ing his largely suc­cess­ful come­back at Mai­son Margiela, af­ter he had been fired from Dior for mak­ing anti-Semitic re­marks.

The de­signer Tom Ford, in a state­ment, de­scribed Filipowski as a daily sound­ing board about brand­ing and press strat­egy. Donatella Ver­sace, who re­lied heav­ily on KCD in the wake of her brother Gianni’s killing in 1997, called Filipowski a men­tor.

KCD was a pi­o­neer in a glob­al­iz­ing busi­ness. Be­fore it came along, fash­ion public re­la­tions was mostly built on hype and drama. Eleanor Lam­bert started a fa­mous best-dressed list that was as mem­o­rable for who got left off as for who made it on. Pierre Bergé, the long­time part­ner of Yves Saint Lau­rent and the voice of his la­bel, was fa­mous for or­ches­trat­ing fights with jour­nal­ists and com­peti­tors.

Filipowski, and the em­ploy­ees who came to work for him and Man­nion, op­er­ated dif­fer­ently. They were si­mul­ta­ne­ously friend­lier and more cor­po­rate than their pre­de­ces­sors.

“They were not driven by emo­tion,” said Paul Cavaco, the C in the com­pany’s name un­til he sold the firm to Filipowski and Man­nion in the early 1990s. “That’s what Ed was really good at. He was steady.”

It was KCD that helped make head­sets stan­dard at fash­ion shows, its em­ploy­ees coolly walk­ing the pe­riph­ery of the run­way in chic black suits that re­called the Agent Smith char­ac­ter from “The Ma­trix.” The idea was for them to fade into the back­ground, re­flect­ing both Filipowski’s as­ceti­cism and his aes­thetic. He was most sen­ti­men­tal about his work with Hel­mut Lang, which in the late 1990s was the in­dus­try stan­dard for ur­ban min­i­mal­ism.

Ed­win John Filipowski was born June 27, 1961, in Monessen, Penn­syl­va­nia., just out­side Pitts­burgh. His fa­ther, Ed­ward, was a steel­worker. His mother, Stella, worked in var­i­ous jobs, in­clud­ing at the re­tailer JCPen­ney, ac­cord­ing to a 2003 pro­file of Filipowski in The Pitts­burgh Post-Gazette.

Filipowski grad­u­ated from the Medill School of Jour­nal­ism at North­west­ern Univer­sity in 1983 and moved to New York, where he took a job at ad­ver­tis­ing agency Jor­dan, Case & McGrath.

At the time, stylists Kezia Kee­ble and Paul Cavaco, best known for their work on ad cam­paigns for Calvin Klein and Gianni Ver­sace, were open­ing an agency. They hired Filipowski to be head of public re­la­tions.

Their idea was to use prom­i­nent pho­tog­ra­phers like Steven Meisel and Bruce We­ber for ad cam­paigns, or­ga­nize fash­ion shows and ex­ert in­flu­ence on which jour­nal­ists would pro­file de­sign­ers. That last task of­ten fell to Filipowski.

Then, tur­moil en­gulfed the agency.

Cavaco and Kee­ble, who were mar­ried, di­vorced, and Kee­ble mar­ried John Duka, a for­mer New York Times fash­ion writer. He be­came a part­ner in the agency, which named it­self Kee­ble Cavaco & Duka, later short­ened to KCD.

In 1989, Duka, who had been found to have AIDS, died. A year later, Kee­ble died of breast cancer.

Soon af­ter, Cavaco sold the firm to Man­nion and Filipowski, who be­came the chief strate­gist.

“Ev­ery­one pre­dicted” that the com­pany was “go­ing to die with two of its founders,” The New York Times fash­ion critic Amy M. Spindler wrote in 1996. In­stead, she wrote, KCD emerged as the “one com­pany” that was “poised to in­herit the wide new world of global fash­ion public re­la­tions.”

Along with its min­i­mal­ist aes­thetic, the agency also be­came known for hand­ing out highly de­tailed ‘‘dresser cards” back­stage.

“They told the dresser how the back sash is tied, how far the zip­per is sup­posed to go up, how many but­tons are but­toned and if the col­lar is in or out,” said Anna Sui, who has em­ployed KCD since 1991, when she opened her com­pany. “Ev­ery­thing was prag­matic. Ev­ery­thing was about be­ing cor­rect.”

Marc Ja­cobs, who worked with Filipowski for more than 30 years, praised his un­flap­pable na­ture. “In the mo­ments that are the most stress­ful — events or es­pe­cially fash­ion shows — Ed kept his sense of hu­mor, kept his wits,” he said in an in­ter­view.

Gucci, Alexan­der McQueen and Chloe joined the com­pany ros­ter. When Ford was named as Yves Saint Lau­rent’s cre­ative di­rec­tor in 1999, Filipowski set up a KCD of­fice in Paris, a first for an Amer­i­can fash­ion public re­la­tions com­pany.

Fast fash­ion com­pa­nies like H&M came along and did more than pro­duce clothes that closely re­sem­bled the high-end ver­sions de­signed by KCD’s clients; they also hired KCD to han­dle their store open­ings and me­dia cam­paigns.

KCD came to rep­re­sent the Coun­cil of Fash­ion De­sign­ers of Amer­ica, the in­dus­try’s main booster or­ga­ni­za­tion in the United States. Anna Win­tour, who ef­fec­tively runs the an­nual gala at the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Mu­seum of Art, se­lected KCD to man­age the flow of celebri­ties on its red car­pet. And when Spindler died in 2004, KCD over­saw her memo­rial at the Rain­bow Room atop Rock­e­feller Cen­ter.


Ed Filipowski and his part­ner, Julie Man­nion, of the KCD firm re­lax at a 1996 Richard Tyler fash­ion show. Filipowski, a public re­la­tions ex­ec­u­tive who be­came one of the fash­ion in­dus­try’s most in­flu­en­tial be­hind-the-scenes play­ers, died Fri­day at age 58.

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