Sally Jane Brampton: Trailblazing editor who transformed women’s magazines

Obituary: Agony aunt and novelist whose ferocious honesty on depression saved lives

Sally Brampton:  July 25th, 1955-May 10th, 2016. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Sally Brampton: July 25th, 1955-May 10th, 2016. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

 

The journalist and author Sally Brampton, who has died aged 60, created the template for the modern women’s magazine. She was hired as editor when the French magazine Elle launched a British edition in 1985 and brought with her the style she had learned as a Vogue writer and the rigour from her time as fashion editor at the Observer.

She created a magazine that was groundbreaking. The glossy monthly contained the usual high fashion – it made a star of the model Naomi Campbell, who appeared on the cover just shy of her 16th birthday – but also in-depth investigations of such issues as counterfeiting and fertility.

There were interviews with a young Tilda Swinton and Alice Walker, and she created a new way of writing about fashion shows that put designers’ ideas in a socio-historic context instead of merely reporting on novelty.

Naturally cosmopolitan, Brampton was born in Brunei, where her parents, Pamela and Roy Brampton, were stationed while her father worked for Shell. She was boarder in a school in Kent, went to Oxford, and St Martin’s School of Art. She joined Vogue as a winner of its talent competition in 1978, and moved to the Observer in 1981.

Depression

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A victim of severe depression, Brampton used her experiences to write the memoir Shoot the Damn Dog (2008). This is regarded as an important work on the subject but many media figures found it remarkable that this connected and successful woman could be a depressive. A Sunday Times agony aunt column, and the book, showed that no matter how stylish and popular the outward appearance, mental health problems could affect anyone.

Brampton’s friends knew she was vulnerable because she was her usual candid self. But as so often with those who take their own life, she hid just how close she was to letting go. She will be remembered as the editor who transformed the women’s magazine market and trained a generation of accomplished female journalists. She should also be remembered as the woman whose ferocious honesty about depression saved lives.

She is survived by her daughter, Molly Powell.