Elsa Klensch, who over two decades brought fashion news to CNN’s global TV audience, has died in New York City, according to the network.
CNN did not give a cause of death. Klensch was 92.
Klensch hosted the weekly series “Style With Elsa Klensch” from 1980 to 2001. She traveled to major fashion centers around the world and presented trends and designers every Saturday morning.
“Style” became one of CNN’s most popular programs in its early years and Klensch emerged as one of the network’s signature on-air talents, especially as the channel’s reach expanded internationally.
Klensch gave dedicated followers of fashion in-depth reporting in an age before social media and bloggers, when consumer coverage of the industry was largely the province of glossy monthly print magazines. Broadcast TV network news divisions covered fashion, but did not have the time that CNN was able to provide as a 24-hour news service starting out in the 1980s.
For years, Klensch was the only TV reporter at many fashion shows, elevating her status and giving her greater access to big names as coverage of the industry became more prevalent.
Designers such as Miuccia Prada, Marc Jacobs and Karl Lagerfeld and supermodels such as Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington all sat for Klensch interviews. Journalists covering fashion today cite Klensch as an inspiration.
In 1999, the New Yorker said Klensch “reports on developments in design, on innovations in fabrics, and on mutations of hemlines as soberly as if she were covering the State Department.”
Klensch became a style icon herself, inducted into the International Best-Dressed Hall of Fame in 1990. She did not accept garments from the companies she covered and received no clothing allowance from CNN, which was notoriously tight-fisted in its early years.
Born Elsa Aeuschbacher just outside Sydney, Australia, Klensch began her journalism career in London in the 1960s. She began as a freelance business writer for Women’s Wear Daily. While working in Hong Kong, she met her husband, journalist Charles Klensch, then the Saigon bureau chief for ABC News. They were married in Vietnam in 1966.
Klensch moved to New York in the 1970s and toiled as a fashion editor for WWD, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. She freelanced for New York newspapers until an 84-day strike shut them down in 1978, which led her to try television.
Klensch was among the original cadre of specialty correspondents and experts hired by CNN founder Ted Turner when the network launched in 1980 — a hedge against the possibility of slow news periods.
Klensch left CNN in 2001 after its then-parent Time Warner merged with AOL. She continued to write and lecture on fashion and wrote several mystery novels.