Jessica Wood obituary

Emma Graham-Harrison
·2 min read

Jessica Wood, who has died aged 43, was laughter, colour and love in constant motion. A fashion journalist who saw her profession as a door to a riot of beauty for everyone, she explored clothes as art, armour, business and often just pure joy.

Born in north London, the only daughter of Hazel (nee Leslie), a literary journalist, and Antony Wood, a leading translator from Russian, Jess grew up surrounded by words, and developed her own great gift, both in written and spoken form.

Sharply intelligent, she excelled effortlessly at City of London school for girls, where we became friends, then studied English at Bristol University, graduating in 1999. Her first job at Glamour magazine in 2002 brought an appearance – wide-eyed but frank – on the T4 show G Girls.

She moved to InStyle magazine, then Marie Claire in 2009, where she remained fashion features director, and editor of the bi-annual fashion collections magazine Runway, until the print magazine was retired in 2019. Jess also served on the British Fashion Council’s press committee.

She negotiated her way into the wardrobes of luminaries including the Sex and the City stylist Patricia Field, as well as the Chanel atelier and backstage milieu of endless shows. Her interview subjects ranged from Victoria Beckham to Karl Lagerfeld.

But she had little time for the industry’s more judgmental, pretentious recesses, and wrote urgently about the human and environmental costs of fashion long before sustainability was a buzzword.

Jess’s colour-drenched wardrobe (she never wore black), and oversized, outlandish jewellery were distinctive even in the fashion world. Anything mundane was given an artful makeover, such as the pandemic-era red puffer coat (a purchase of such withering practicality she described it as a “personal Rubicon”) she edged with layers of pink grosgrain ribbons.

After Marie Claire, she became content editor at the online designer fashion site The Outnet, remained a contributing fashion editor at Marie Claire online, and wrote for the Daily Mail fashion pages.

Marriage to Simon Vasco, in 2011, brought Carmen and Leo, whom she loved fiercely, fought hard for and wove into every part of her life. Jess and Simon were separated, but remained close friends and committed co-parents.

To be her friend was to always feel lucky that such a force for laughter and fun had drawn you into her orbit. Her father captured her spirit in his translation of a Pushkin poem celebrating an “incandescent soul”.

She was also unstintingly generous throughout her life, whatever her personal challenges, always finding time, energy and perfect gifts to support those she loved. Tragically, the last lockdown contributed to an acute mental health crisis and she took her own life. She is survived by Carmen, Leo, Antony and Hazel.