… Wintour that is. If you read Vogue or have seen “The Devil Wears Prada” you’ve seen her work and are familiar with her drive. Known as a hard worker in the magazine world, a driving force in the fashion world and shroud in the business world, Ms. Wintour is truly a force with which to be reckoned.
Merrill Streep played Miranda Priestley in the movie, “The Devil Wears Prada,” and if you’ve seen the movie, you know that the character is terse, stately and knowledgeable. Lauren Weisberger, a former personal assistant of Ms. Wintour, wrote the book (which was made into a movie) showing how the fashionista runs through admins like water, barks orders and demands out-of-reach, borderline impossible tasks from her staff (like the new Harry Potter manuscript for her twins), but always seems to land on her feet and run a top-notch magazine, called Runway (aka the real life Vogue).
Outside of the movie and inside the island of Manhattan, Anna Wintour is the British-born Editor in Chief of American Vogue, a position she’s held since 1988. Her page-boy haircut and face covering sunglasses are her trademark, which she told 60 minutes are worn to shield her reaction to the styles coming down the runway – she never wants to fully show her hand, by way of emotion or expression. She is known in the fashion world for spotting the next big trend and for her support of young, up and coming designers. To honest, I’m not sure whether she spots the latest and greatest or if she steers the industry in that direction.
The September Issue, a documentary detailing the “behind the scenes” on-goings at Vogue, as they prepare their biggest issue of the year, the notorious September issue, shows Ms. Wintour visiting designers and directing photo shoots until the whopping 800+ page issue is complete. It shows her traveling to a designer’s studio, nodding approval at some selections and pursing her lips at other pieces, in a sign of disapproval, leading the viewer to believe that she has a greater hand in the direction of the fashion industry on a whole and not simply one who selects photos and approves magazine copy.
Not only does Ms. Wintour have a far reach within the magazine world, but she also has pull with some heavy hitters and strong influence on the business world a whole. For the 1998 cover shoot with Oprah, she made the suggestion to the media mogul that she lose 20 pounds saying, “It was a very gentle suggestion, and thought that she might feel more comfortable. She was a trooper.” When Marc Jacobs was short on cash, she asked Mr. Trump if he could use the Plaza Hotel for an upcoming show. Lastly, she persuaded Brooks Brothers to take on a then relatively unknown designer, named Thom Browne and has helped young designers, like John Galliano, find a home at Christian Dior (prior to this and this).
With her army of powerful friends, she is able to help those in “need.” Baz Luhrmann was having what he describes as “birth pains” at the launch of Moulin Rouge, nervous of how the public would perceive the motion picture. What does Ms .Wintour do? She puts Nicole Kidman on the cover of Vogue, in a gown from the film, and pulls in friend Harvey Weinstein to help organize a celebrity auction. Many would look at her actions and think, “Wow, how nice of her! She has a kind heart and is willing to help out those closest to her.” Maybe. But more than likely, she is a smart business woman who is able to place her game pieces, and strategically play chess, where her comrades are playing checkers.
In 2008, Vogue had a tough year, welcomed with criticism from their cover photo of Lebron and Giselle, as well as an unflattering quote made by Jennifer Aniston, which made the cover, late in the year. Industry insiders said that the magazine was losing it’s touch and becoming stagnant. Rumors started swirling that Anna Wintour would be asked to leave Vogue, in order to bring in some fresh ideas and breathe new life into the fashion glossy. Her answer to the rumors? Start pounding the pavement, get out in front and do media, appearing on shows like 60 Minutes and the Late Show with David Letterman, she saved her job, bought herself some time and brought the magazine back to life.
In 2009, Ms. Wintour initiated Fashion Night Out in New York City, with a mission to increase sales in the fashion industry, as she broadened the Vogue brand and reached outside the pages of the magazine industry. Since the inception, the idea has spread to other cities, including Washington, DC. Vogue.com was next, bringing in 1.3 million unique visitors per day, just 5 months after its launch. The magazine also has a photo presence on Tumbler and has approximately 459,000 followers on Twitter (I proudly count myself as one of those faithful followers!) Surrounded by reports that the magazine print world is crumbling, Ms. Wintour grew ad revenue for Vogue 16%, while the publication added 11% more ad space. In 2010, newsstand sales rose 5% in the first half of the year.
Being involved with fashion for close to 50 years, Ms. Wintour is not only a staple in the industry, but also the tie that binds. She influences the industry on a whole and can make or break a designer’s collection, not by what she writes in Vogue, but by the things she doesn’t say. There is usually an “up and comer,” someone who is groomed to take over when a star’s light burns out, but in this case, I honestly can’t think of anyone who can adequately take her place. She is truly enigmatic, and the only one who is perfectly suited to fill the Prada shoes she dons.