- Associated Press - Friday, September 5, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - In the intense, high-stakes world of fashion, Joan Rivers helped change the game.

The industry she bit into on “Fashion Police” but embraced in her friendships and the fancy clothes on her back considered her love-hate legacy Thursday after her death at 81.

“For me, she was the most instrumental person because she changed the dialogue in fashion forever,” said Fern Mallis, herself a shaker as creator of New York Fashion Week.

Rivers was the first on a red carpet to stick a microphone in a star’s face and ask about clothes. Before that, Mallis said, “It was what’s the movie you’re in? What’s the director like? What’s the next project?” And it was there she created one of her trademarks: Her inimitable, “Who are you wearing?”

Joe Zee, former creative director at Elle magazine and the new editor-in-chief of Yahoo! Style, said there was more: “What she leaves behind is that you can have fun with clothes.”

Rivers knew how to have fun and poke fun in a serious business making serious money with a serious work ethic.

Stylist Leslie Fremar, who has worked with Charlize Theron, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Connelly and Julianne Moore, believes fashion was able to appreciate Rivers as a talented comedian, with grains of salt.

“It was all in great fun,” she said. “I don’t necessarily think that what she did was fashion critique, but she was extremely funny, and I appreciate that. She brought comedy to something that is not about saving lives. Some people look at fashion and think that there’s something superficial about it, and there’s humor in that.”

One thing’s for sure, Fremar said, and Rivers had a lot to do with it: “When they go on the red carpet now, they’re ready.”

Fellow stylist June Ambrose said Rivers “kept us all on our toes” and knew the business like an insider.

“She had a keen eye for fashion and was as bold as a diva should be,” she added.

Louise Roe, who has worked on E! Network’s “Fashion Police” and hosted other fashion TV shows, described Rivers as “fashion’s grandma.”

You know the one. You’re wearing THAT?!

“She always said what everyone else might have been thinking, and it is definitely poignant that she passed away during fashion week, and we will certainly raise a toast to her,” Roe said. “It’s very, very sad.”

Designer Dennis Basso once teamed with Rivers, a dear friend, for the QVC show “Joan Rivers & Dennis Basso: Designing Duo.” His luscious couture furs were favorites.

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