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A. Spindler, 40; Style Editor

The fashion critic was an editor of the New York Times Magazine. She had demanded coverage of dress as a cultural yardstick.

March 01, 2004|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Amy M. Spindler, style editor of the New York Times Magazine for five years and a former fashion critic for the newspaper, has died at the age of 40.

Spindler died Friday at her home in Manhattan of a brain tumor.

Once described as "an energetic force [who] had an idea a minute," Spindler demanded coverage of fashion as a cultural yardstick rather than a mere recitation of where the hemline should stop. As witty as she was blunt in her writing, she demanded the best of clothing designers.

"She explained to us how we really feel about fashion," Tom Ford, the celebrated former creative director of Gucci, told the New York Times. "She saw the relevance of fashion for intelligent people -- saw it in its broadest cultural context."

In addition to her pointed criticism of designers' clothing lines, Spindler exposed unflattering industry trends. In 1997, after fashion photographer Davide Sorrenti died of a drug overdose, Spindler upbraided magazine editors for promoting "heroin chic" through models' makeup, hairstyles, excessive thinness and stuporous expressions.

"What Mr. Sorrenti's death has revealed is that fashion photography is indeed a mirror of the tightknit world that produces the photographs," she wrote. "And as long as drugs are unchecked in the industry, that image will be difficult to change."

The New York Times hired Spindler in 1993 as a columnist on its weekly fashion page, and a year later created the position of fashion critic for her. She became the magazine's style editor in 1998 and remained until last fall, when illness forced her to step aside. She became critic at large for culture and style.

Born in Michigan City, Ind., Spindler earned a degree in journalism at Indiana University and then moved to New York City. Her career began with entry-level jobs for Conde Nast publications, including writing press releases for Bride's magazine.

In 1988 she became a reporter for DNR, a men's fashion journal owned by Fairchild Publications. Her first day on the job, she ironed shirts for a photo shoot. But the second day she went on her first assignment, and on the third day saw her first published story -- displayed on the front page.

Covering garment industry news, writing fashion criticism and styling photo shoots, she worked for other Fairchild publications and became the associate features editor of W Europe in Paris. She often credited those publications with teaching her the fashion trade, its business as well as artistic elements.

Spindler is survived by her husband, television producer Roberto Benabib; her mother, Sally Spindler of Tampa, Fla.; and a sister, Bonnie, of San Francisco.

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