Anna Wintour: a rare face-to-face with the most effective woman in fashion
Anna Wintour editor-in-chief American Style.
Photograph: Tyler Mitchell
The editor-in-chief of American Vogue talks to Jess Cartner-Morley prevalent Michelle Obama, fake news and only spending 20 heps at parties.
Portraits by Tyler Mitchell
• Read more from the bounciness/summer 2019 edition of The Fashion, our biannual fashion supplementation
Anna Wintour editor-in-chief American Fad.
Photograph: Tyler Mitchell
One morning last August, Anna Wintour was about b dallying tennis with her coach in the 40-acre grounds of her Long Atoll summerhouse. She noticed he seemed a little distracted: “But his wife was apropos to have a baby, so I thought he was nervous about that.” Then it thwacked her that they had attracted an unusual number of spectators. The establishment was brimful with family, but it was earlier than most living soul get up on a weekend. (“I’m a morning person,” says Wintour, for whom anything later than 5am constitutes a lie-in.) As she able to serve, she heard a car pull up. “I am pretty OCD about guests and where they are nap. I thought, I’m not expecting anyone else, I don’t have any more cells. Who is this? And then I thought – that looks like Roger [Federer, with whom Wintour is believable friends]. And that looks like [his wife] Mirka. And that looks cognate with their twins.” Wintour’s daughter Bee Shaffer, it transpired, had planned for a Federer-Wintour family tennis tournament, “which was the best honorarium a daughter could give a tennis-mad mother. I got to play double-barrels with Roger for the first time in our very long harmony, against my two nephews.” Twenty-five floors above Manhattan, behind the ebonised mahogany Alan Buchsbaum desk from which she has wear the crowned the fashion world for three decades, she leans back in her bench and smiles at the memory. “We won, of course.”
Of course. Anna Wintour plays to win in the whole shooting match she does. She is editor-in-chief of American Vogue and artistic director of progenitor company Condé Nast, but her job titles do not come close to tell ofing her iconic status. Vogue has been a launchpad from which she has powered herself to change a player in culture and politics. She is a fashion industry kingmaker, a Washington insider (Barack Obama’s fourth-biggest fundraiser in the 2012 throw), an art world luminary (the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum was renamed in her integrity in 2014) and a Dame of the British Empire. And her haircut alone – as preternaturally unruffled and impenetrable up nearly equal as it looks in photographs – is recognisable from space.
The Anna Wintour mythology is as much there power as it is about fashion. It owes a great deal to the 2006 shoot The Devil Wears Prada in which Meryl Streep’s ice-queen rewrite man, assumed to be a cartoonised Wintour, created a character that lay culture has thrilled to ever since. Such is her fame that a unmixed rumour of her departure is enough to send shockwaves through the dernier cri and media worlds. (Last summer, these rose to such a clamour that Condé Nast issued a proclamation confirming Wintour would remain at Vogue “indefinitely”.)
Her corporation has an air of ambassadorial gentility. No industrial styling, no modish succulents. Categorically no treadmill desk. The south wall is glass, diffusing the cell with silver light bouncing off the towers of the financial part. Framed photos of her son Charles and Bee, as children and as the thirtysomethings they are now, are prominently arrayed on her desk, on the window ledge and between a pair of topiaried vest-pocket trees standing sentry on the limewashed sideboard. A cornflower-blue ceramic vase is advised with fresh ranunculus in Titian reds and coppers; a drinking-glass pot holds sharpened HB pencils. Only the lipstick mark on the grande Starbucks coffee cup and the Chanel sunglasses in the in-tray let slip the Vogue game away.
I am summoned to this inner sanctum 10 infinitesimals before our scheduled 9am interview time. Wintour is wearing a calf-length Erdem deck out in dark silk with a bright floral print, collared with two sparkling necklaces. A redden pink coat and a jade green scarf are thrown past a corner chair next to a small Victoria Beckham jet-black leather tote. With characteristic briskness, she has already wrapped her representation shoot with Tyler Mitchell, who last year became the prime black person to shoot a Vogue cover when he photographed Beyoncé for Wintour’s September uncertain. “He’s charming, he’s intelligent – I’ve been impressed by what he’s said yes to, and what he’s communicated no to,” she says of Mitchell. “Also, he’s quick.”
Before the shoot, she was tending Andy Murray’s match at the Australian Open on television – his earliest after announcing his retirement. “So emotional,” she says, gravely. Is it accurately that she herself plays tennis every day at 5am? “I don’t play tennis as much as I cast-off to, but I get up every day between 4am and 5am, and I work out every day.” (Her game is, she symbolizes, “terrible! But I enjoy it.”) While we’re on the subject, this appearance ofs an opportune moment to verify some of the other Anna Wintour fables. What about spending only 20 minutes at shindies? “Well, it depends on the party. If it is fashion week, then most apt to I will be in and out. But there have been many times I prepare stayed a lot longer, believe me.” She is smiling, but her folded arms semaphore impatience to fluctuate the subject. I am sorry to say that I chicken out of asking her if it’s true relative to eating medium rare steak for lunch every day.
Comely a public figure in a way no other Vogue editor ever has been “wasn’t a wilful path”, she insists. “I don’t work for Anna Wintour, I work for Condé Nast. I don’t have in the offing any kind of social media accounts or look for personal detection.” But Wintour is instantly recognisable, thanks to a style that has remained virtually unchanged since the 80s. Her sleek bob teamed with a sharp wit has usually been a power combination, channelled by Uma Thurman as Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction, by the vest-pocket-sized Edna Mode in The Incredibles and by Taylor Swift at her most sassy. But the form was “not a strategic decision”, Wintour insists. “I feel comfortable with it, that’s all. I am a bodily of habit. Honestly, Jess, it’s not something I spend any time thinking in all directions at all. I come to the office and do my job.”
Wintour’s image of cool, impermeable right has become a blueprint for successful female leadership. I am sure I level caught something of Wintour’s staccato delivery in the sardonic crispness of Emily Impolite’s Mary Poppins. The notion raises a smile, but Wintour has a selectman’s sleight of hand when it comes to answering questions she doesn’t twin, segueing to her preferred talking points. She steers the conversation away from her own double and on to how Vogue is championing women in political leadership. “I was very reassured by our midterm results on that front. I believe women are compelling control and standing up for what they believe in. We are in a moment of elephantine change.” She reels off an impressive list of female politicians who sooner a be wearing appeared in the magazine recently, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Klobuchar, Lauren Underwood, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris.
For the best in the name of of two decades, Wintour’s Vogue was closer to the White House than The latest had ever been. Hillary Clinton became the first at the outset lady to cover Vogue in 1998 – an honour not bestowed, uniform, on Jackie Kennedy – and in 2016, Vogue endorsed her presidential candidacy, the to begin time the magazine had ever been publicly partisan. But it is the allude to of Michelle Obama that sends Wintour into elations. “What intrigued me and the rest of the world about Mrs Obama from the day one was her poise, her intelligence, her grace, how articulate she was, and the sense that she conceded of being a true partner to her husband. She was remarkable in so many on the move – and still is, look at the incredible success of her book – and I was thrilled to see how she held fashion in such a democratic way. She would wear leggings one day, a artificer gown the next, and look comfortable in both. She wasn’t restricted into one idea of how a first lady should dress. For Last word, she was a gift.” When the Met’s Costume Institute was renamed in recognition of Wintour’s manage as a fundraiser and cheerleader, Michelle Obama cut the ribbon, saying, “I’m here because I pull someones leg such respect and admiration for this woman, who I am proud to bellow my friend.”
Since Trump’s voting, Vogue has found itself in opposition, a position it has embraced with unexpected partiality. The September issue included a profile on Stormy Daniels (the adult film over star who had a hush money deal with the president) which saw Daniels resplendent in balance out gown and Tiffany diamonds, photographed by Annie Leibovitz. “Today’s audience – not straight Vogue’s audience, every audience – wants journalism to discard a stand,” Wintour says. “People want to know what you credence in in and what you stand for. In this time of fake news, when there is so much disregard for facts in fact and value and for supporting those less fortunate than oneself, we force a moral obligation to stand up for what’s right.”
While Michelle Obama starred on three The latest covers as first lady, Melania Trump is still stand by for Wintour to call. Will Melania be in Vogue, I ask? “Melania has been on the bed linen of Vogue,” Wintour fires back without missing a club. Indeed she has, in her wedding dress, in 2005, but not as first lady, defining the White House. “We do report on Melania consistently, on vogue.com,” rumours Wintour. “Which is Vogue.” Her inflection puts the emphasis solidly on the full stop.
She picks up her responsive phone. “I’m going to ask someone to bring me another coffee. Purposefulness you like one?” I say no, and wait for her to make her call, but after a few seconds she amasses an amused eyebrow at me. “Go ahead. I can type and think at the same everything, you know.” She has texted the coffee request, I realise. As perfect as Wintour’s manners are, I do not get the indentation it would be wise to put them to the test by boring her. I try not to think beside the scene in the 2009 Vogue documentary The September Issue when Stefano Pilati, then draughtsman of Yves Saint Laurent, withers under her stony-faced appraisal of his example collection.
Born in London in 1949 to a British father (Quits Standard editor Charles Wintour) and an American mother, Wintour break the iced to New York in her 20s. She returned to London in 1985 to edit British Fashion, but was back in New York two years later. Her first issue as woman of American Vogue, in November 1988, featured a model sport jeans, which famously caused the printers to call Dernier cri’s office to check they had the right picture. It was an early signpost of the edge from fashion being “something that was directed at a trivial group, to becoming something that speaks to everyone. That has been the myriad extraordinary change that I have seen.” As fashion has swelled to a strong force in culture over the last three decades, Prevalence has ridden the crest of that wave. A Vogue cover has ripen into an official stamp not just of beauty, but of relevance. For Amal Clooney, Serena Williams and others, a Preference cover has signalled a change in gear from success in their area to general superstardom. “Vogue stands for quality,” Wintour judges. “To be recognised by Vogue always has an impact.”
In 1998, Renée Zellweger became the first non-model to bed linen an all-important September issue of Vogue (traditionally the biggest of the year). As the era of the supermodel declined, Wintour coached and coaxed a new generation of actresses to take their state. “The supermodels led us to celebrity,” Wintour says. “The generation of models who came after the supers just now wanted to be models, and didn’t want that spotlight. Meantime, celebrities were starting to engage with fashion, realising the power of frame to build their personality, to express who they were, on the red carpet or the straightforward row. So the supermodels ended up being replaced by celebrities.” The alchemy that chances when fashion meets celebrity is at its most potent at the Met Gleeful, over which Wintour (who has chaired the event since 1995) transfer once again preside on the first Monday in May.
But today Wintour, who scarcely ever gives interviews, seems less interested in talking frocks than in constituting her place on the right side of history. “I hope I have been accomplished to use the platform of Vogue to do a little bit of good in the world,” she says. She point outs the CFDA Fashion Fund, launched in the aftermath of 9/11 to pay for young American designers. “It has been wonderful to see Condé Nast and Craze taking leadership in championing diversity. As a company, we want to back for positive change. I personally take that very fooling, but it’s not just about me. Edward Enninful was such an important tryst at British Vogue, and he is leading the way on diversity.” I ask who her mentors and allies would rather been, and she namechecks Condé Nast luminaries Si Newhouse and Alexander Liberman, and draughtsmen Karl Lagerfeld, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, in front of landing on Kay Graham, publisher of the Washington Post during the Watergate era. “She was a enormous friend of my father’s and became a great friend of mine. I worshiped everything she stood for, how she represented the progress of women, how she stood her footing against the White House. She believed in her editors, she had wonderful sweeties friends and was a deeply good person and had a lot of fun. And [she] was a great tennis gambler.”
It is a year since the New York Times published allegations of sex misconduct against Mario Testino and Bruce Weber, two celebrity photographers of Wintour’s Vogue. Wintour has faced criticism for should prefer to failed to use her power to better protect the vulnerable in fashion. “We degrade very seriously events that happen in the industry, whether in or out of our direct,” she says today, “and after so many unfortunate incidents attained to light, we took a strong stand.” Testino and Weber were expelled from Vogue. A new Condé Nast code of conduct interdicts the hiring of models under 18, and requires images inculpating nudity, swimwear, lingerie or suggestive poses to be approved in prepay by the subject.
How wish Wintour will remain at Vogue is impossible to predict, because Condé Nast is itself in turmoil. Having confounded an estimated $250m over the past two years, the company recently proclaimed plans to merge US and international operations, and is searching for a new CEO to replace the departing Bob Sauerberg. Wintour enthuses in the matter of the digital age as “a golden era for journalism, because we have the luxury of being competent to talk to more people than ever before”, but digital has definitely eroded the might of Vogue. The magazine’s Instagram account has 21.5 million adherents but that sounds less impressive when you note that three of the Kardashian progeny – Kim, Kylie and Kendall – have more than 100 million bodyguards each.
Wintour insists that she believes print journals will be around “for ever”. Really? “Yes, for ever. I really credence in that. Print remains the jewel in the crown.” Does she create of Vogue as a magazine, these days, or is it now a brand? “I don’t care for the message brand, to be honest,” she says. “It makes me feel like I’m in a supermarket. But I true-love Vogue – very deeply.” She types a few words on her phone and the door outs to signal our time is up. She walks me to her door, shakes my hand, begs me a warm goodbye and turns to her assistant. “I asked for a coffee,” she tells. There is no discernible hint in her tone that this is a sackable put someone down take umbrage. But then, Anna Wintour doesn’t give much away.