Friday, February 02, 2007

Who is Anna Wintour?

Anna Wintour is an enigmatic figure. As editor-in-chief at Vogue, she's a major power player in the international fashion world, and she's become a minor celebrity due to the popularity of "The Devil Wears Prada." Fashionistas praise her for her creativity and original vision (last year NYT reporter David Carr wrote "She does not put a finger in the wind to judge trends: she is the wind"), but she's best known for her supposedly tyrannical treatment of assistants and co-workers. Yet very little is known about her personal life, and it's hard to know where the truth ends and the rumors begin.

To be honest, I find it incredible that she's gotten so much attention (do you read anything about the editors of Elle or WWD in the tabloids? Can you even name them?) and I think that it comes down to the fact that she's a very powerful woman whose singular vision and perfectionism (two of the reasons she's so successful) is interpreted as "bitchiness" by those who are threatened by her. You don't hear male CEO's described in the same terms or held to similar standards. As Carr writes, "Male media stars can ingest illegal drugs, make obscene phone calls or hire prostitutes without apparent consequence, but the failure of a female media figure to say please when ordering coffee can lead to wholesale indictment." You can read the whole article here.

But the reason I've had Ms. Wintour on my mind is because yesterday's New York Times featured an article titled Citizen Anna, and as the incredible critic Cathy Horyn showed a side of the editor that hasn't been discussed before. I knew that Anna was extremely influential, determining trends, making or breaking designers, that kind of thing, but I had no idea just how much influence she has into other areas of the fashion world. She works as a headhunter, matching designers with labels, influencing label decisions at the corporate level and has promoting "labels of dubious design merit but with an obvious social or power connection", hurting her credibility. Regular readers of the Vogue family of magazines will recognize familiar faces (Tinsley Mortimer again??) and she's been known to help dress the socialites who end up appearing month after month in her magazines.

It's a little scary to think that one woman has this much power over every area of the fashion world. If designers feel pressured to design according to Anna's aesthetic, and fashion houses hire designers who Anna likes, this filters down into what's available to the average consumer at department stores and boutiques... it just limits the number of perspectives promoted and made available to the consumer.

The article brings up a lot of interesting aspects of Anna's personal and professional life that aren't normally discussed in the gossip-mongering media. I'm conflicted on how I feel about her, but there's no doubt that she's an extremely shrewd, capable businesswoman who will continue to exert influence over fashion for years to come.


Ninjarina said...

I love Anna Wintour. US Vogue may look like Lucky Magazine when in comparison with France Vogue but as you have said, Anna Wintour is not just "Anna Wintour, EIC," she's so much more. We need more women like her.

Meg said...

Ninjarina- I totally agree, I love Anna too, she's a strong-willed, incredibly gifted woman who's worked extremely hard to be at the top of her game. I just wish that the media would acknowledge that instead of focusing on her "Editrix" reputation.

BeautyinBaltimore said...

I really think Anna is very bland. I much prefer the editor of French Vogue Corrine.