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  • Neha Sen

Influential Women Series: Anna Wintour

Updated: Mar 1, 2022

Editors, as a general rule of thumb, aren’t public figures. Even fashion and lifestyle magazine editors are not exactly household names. In recent years, with the rise of social media, street style coverage of fashion weeks, and the revamping of publishing, editors like Emmanuelle Alt (Vogue France) and Taylor Tomasi Hill (Marie Claire US) have become style icons. That, is not the case with Anna Wintour.

influential women: anna wintour

Anna Wintour, the daughter of Charles Wintour, Editor-in-chief of the London Evening Standard (1959-1976), has been making headlines on both sides of the Atlantic long before trending news was a concept. As much for her trademark haircut which many refer to as the “Wintour bob”, as for her appointment as editor of Condé Nast’s “House & Garden” magazine. As much for her being the inspiration behind “The Devil Wears Prada”, as for the large-scale job cuts, she delivered in her short stint as British Vogue’s Editor-in Chief.

Who is Anna Wintour?

Wintour has served as the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue US, for the past thirty years. She also serves as the Chief Content officer and Artistic Director for Condé Nast. That’s what she does. What Wintour is, perhaps, a bit more complicated than that. Wintour is, without exaggeration, the single most powerful and influential woman in the 758.4-billion-dollar fashion industry.

The Good

Anna Wintour took a historic but stagnant publication and turned it into one of the most expensive magazines and iconic ‘brands’. In her first decade as Editor-in-Chief, Vogue’s advertisement revenue climbed from $87 million to $150 million. She has shepherded the print magazine into the digital age seamlessly with interactive YouTube videos, Instagram, and its digital magazine. Since Wintour’s appointment as the chair for the Met Gala in 1995, the costume institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art has raised over $186 million. Wintour, with designer Diane von Furstenberg, founded the Vogue Fashion Fund to nurture new designers and support them with funds and mentors. Wintour has reportedly raised over $10 million for AIDS research and charities since the 1990s.

A power broker, Wintour has been responsible in the appointments of every senior creative position in almost every luxury brand for the last two decades. Designers like Vera Wang, John Galliano, Nicolas Ghesquière, and Alexander Wang owe much of their careers to Wintour.

An avid and consistent supporter of the Democratic Party, Wintour endorsed both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden during their respective election years. One of Wintour’s most controversial decisions was putting Hillary Clinton on the cover of the magazine at the zenith of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Clinton has graced the covers of Vogue multiple times since then along with former First Lady Michelle Obama. Anna Wintour has consistently organised fundraisers for the party over the years. The January, 2021 cover of Vogue US features Vice President-elect, Kamala Harris, in a cover Wintour calls accessible and approachable, reflecting the message of the Biden-Harris campaign.

The Bad

Anna Wintour has been at the receiving end of animal rights violation accusations multiple times since the early 1990s and, with good reason. Wintour’s use of furs in editorials, refusal to run advertising paid by animal rights activists and environmentalist groups has seen her physically attacked outside shows during fashion weeks. As successful as she has been at raising funds with the Met Gala, Wintour has also been accused of promoting elitism. With the highly photoshopped and digitally remade pictures in Vogue, Wintour has been accused of creating impossible beauty standards.

Her continued support for the Democratic Party, and refusal to feature Melania Trump in Vogue, after Donald Trump’s appointment as President was praised by some, despised by others. However, when Harvey Weinstein’s decades-old history of sexual predation was exposed, Wintour remained silent. Wintour and Weinstein had had been involved in fundraisers together. Indeed, Weinstein was one of the regular guests at the Met Gala. It must be mentioned, however, that Weinstein had business dealings with virtually everyone in media and journalism.

The Unspoken

Her private life has been speculated on, been fodder for tabloids, made jest of, but all throughout Wintour has reserved comment. Exceedingly careful and calculated about her media profile, she is guarded during interviews.

Over the years, Wintour has earned a reputation of being a demanding boss. A widely used nickname that is less harsh than the others, is ‘Nuclear Wintour’. However, she has had employees and collaborators who have worked for her for decades.

Whether Wintour’s aloofness is a method of intimidation or simply British reserve, one can perhaps never know. But what can be known for certain, is that Anna Wintour’s influence on fashion, on media, and on culture will always be en vogue.

For more information on this topic, check out our section on Feminism and Gender issues.

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