10/10/09

Who's Who in Fashion: Anna Wintour

In honor of her movie in theaters right now, The September Issue, this posting is the who,what,where of Anna Wintour from cityfile.com.

Who

The most powerful name in the world of fashion, Wintour has been the editor-in-chief of Vogue since 1988.

Backstory

The famously icy editrix has been clear about her priorities ever since she dropped out of a privileged London girls' school at 16 over an argument about uniform hemlines. The daughter of "Chilly Charlie" Wintour, former editor of the Evening Standard (and credited with bequeathing to "Nuclear Wintour" her cold demeanor and steely ambition), Wintour started her editorial career in 1970 at the British magazine Harper's & Queen. By the mid-70s she'd decamped to New York, where she worked at Harper's Bazaar, the Bob Guccione-owned Viva, and a new fashion mag called Savvy before landing at New York, where she spent three years as fashion editor. After a brief stint at American Vogue, Wintour returned to London and took over as editor of British Vogue in 1986.

Anna returned to New York soon enough. In 1987, she assumed the top job at Condé Nast's House & Garden. But it was just a stepping stone: As she'd told her friends for years, the only job she really wanted was editing Vogue. A year later she got her wish when Condé Nast chief Si Newhouse pushed out Grace Mirabella and replaced her with Wintour. The transition happened in dramatic fashion: Poor Grace didn't know she'd been usurped until Liz Smith announced it on television—and Smith infuriated Wintour by suggesting that she'd slept with Newhouse to land the job.

Of note

Wintour is the reigning queen of the fashion industry, capable of anointing stars and destroying careers. Over the past 20 years, she's helped launch the careers of countless designers (Zac Posen, John Galliano, Narciso Rodriguez, Tory Burch, Thom Browne, and Marc Jacobs, just to name a few), and now as always an inclusion in Vogue remains the golden ticket to fashion stardom.

She's also used her status at the top of the fashion heap to fashion herself into a powerbroker. Many CEOs in the industry turn to her for input on their collections and wouldn't dream of making a big move—like taking on a new creative director, for example—without consulting "Anna." She convinced LVMH to hire Marc Jacobs as creative director, convinced Christian Dior to hire John Galliano, and instigated the deal between Thom Browne and Brooks Brothers. But she'll also use her influence to attend to more pedestrian matters. When a young (and cash-strapped) Marc JacobsDonald Trump, who owned the Plaza at the time, and made it happen. Of course, her influence extends well beyond fashion. There's the Costume Institute gala, which she organizes every May and is the closest thing to the Oscars the East coast's got. There are the countless socialites whom she's minted by placing them front and center in the magazine—women like Marina Rust Connor, Lauren duPont, Lauren Santo Domingo, and Lisa Airan, who link up with Vogue in a perfectly symbiotic relationship: The publicity-seeking fashion plates adore the attention (and free clothes), they promote the designers who advertise, and Anna gets great photos to publish.

Keeping score

Wintour reportedly collects $2 million a year as the editor of Vogue. Her salary doesn't begin to account for the perks that come with the job: three full-time assistants, a six-figure clothing allowance, a full-time car and driver, and a stylist who shows up at her home every morning to blow out her hair, to name just a few.

The look

Known for her eternal brown bob, Chanel sunglasses, and 100-pound frame—she was once described as "a fabulously glamorous insect"—Anna's signature look is legendary. It hasn't changed much over the years. She says she got her first bob cut at the age of 15 and has never been happy styling it any other way.

On the job

From her very spacious office on the 12th floor of the Condé Nast building, Wintour oversees a team of editors who do her bidding, cajole designers and deliver the occasional threat on her behalf. Grace Coddington serves as creative director and oversees the look of the magazine on a month-to-month basis. André Leon Talley, who has worked with Wintour since the very beginning, is one of her most trusted deputies; Sally Singer oversees features and fashion news. On the publishing side, Wintour works with Tom Florio, the brother of the late Steve Florio, the former CEO of Condé Nast and a longtime Wintour pal.

In person

While she's a horrifically intimidating boss—"one of the most frightening women in the world," according to Candace Bushnell—tales of her behavior on the job have been exaggerated over the years. Yes, her icy demeanor instills fear in everyone who comes within a ten-foot radius. Yes, she has a nasty temper and will crush you if you cross her. Sure, she's fired people for any number of silly reasons, and has said she'd never hire a fat person no matter how good an editor she was. And, no, stinking up the offices with a big Chinese lunch order will not earn you any points. You can, however, ride the elevator with her, although don't expect her to utter a syllable to you if you dare engage her in conversation. And you can in fact look directly at her without fear of laser beams shooting out of her eyes and striking you down.

Drama

Wintour's penchant for fur has made her PETA's No. 1 enemy. (She says she's been physically attacked so often "I've lost count.") She's had a dead raccoon dropped on her lunch plate at the Four Seasons, bloody paw prints painted on her townhouse, and a variety of different pies thrown in her face or tossed in her direction. An activist outside a Dolce & Gabbana show several years ago hit her with a "flour bomb"; in 2005, at the Chloé show at the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris, a woman ran up and dumped bloody animal remains on her. Not surprisingly, when Anna shows up at an event these days, you'll find at least one well-dressed man from the Condé Nast security department standing by her side.

Wintour has occasionally retaliated: She once had a waiter deliver a plate of rare meat to protestors waiting for her outside a Vogue party at Balthazar. But the feud has created bigger headaches than the occasional stained gown. In October 2004, her former nanny was awarded $2.2 million in a settlement over the inhalation of toxic fumes. She claimed she'd been harmed by the chemicals which were used to remove the red paint that had been splattered on Wintour's front steps.


Image and information from http://cityfile.com/profiles/anna-wintour

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