Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue and the artistic director of Condé Nast, is widely regarded as the most influential figure in fashion.
American Vogue reaches 11.4 million readers in print and an average of 1.2 monthly visitors online; what’s more, Wintour is arguably the most commercially minded editor ever. She has parlayed US Vogue’s position as a documenter and badge of acceptance to place the magazine within the industry’s beating commercial heart. During her 25-year tenure at American Vogue, Wintour has spearheaded the editorial practice of featuring celebrities on the cover, taken the title’s fashion pages out of the studio and onto the street and used Condé Nast’s flagship title’s influence to champion new American designers through the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. Wintour launch Fashion’s Night Out.
The British-born editor has described her new role as artistic director as “an extension of what I am doing now, but with a broader scope.” The New York Times described it as an “in-house consultant for troubled or dated magazines,” the advice of which “can be sought, or delivered.”
In R.J. Cutler’s documentary The September Issue, Wintour said “Growing up in London in the Sixties you would have to be walking round with Irving Penn’s sack on your head to not realise that something extraordinary was happening in fashion. The look of the girl then and everything that was going on then, the pill and the emancipation of women and the end of the class system, just sort of seeing that revolution go on made me love [fashion] from an early age.” Wintour, already equipped with what would become her trademark bob, took a job at Biba, the London store before completing a training programme at Harrods. Soon after, following a stint gaining experience at magazine Oz, Wintour took a role at Harper’s & Queen.
After a move to New York, Wintour became a junior fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar, a role she left to take up positions at Viva and later, in 1980, Savvy, a title aimed at independent, career-conscious women – a readership she would later target at Vogue. Following a brief but well-received stint at New York Magazine, Wintour was chosen by Alex Liberman to be the creative director of American Vogue. In 1985, Wintour became editor-in-chief of British Vogue, where she implemented wide-ranging changes. "There's a new kind of woman out there," she told the Evening Standard. "She's interested in business and money. She doesn't have time to shop anymore. She wants to know what and why and where and how." Wintour returned to New York in 1987 to take over House & Garden, a move believed by many to be a staging post for her eventual succession of Grace Mirabella at Vogue, just ten months later in 1988. Wintour’s first cover, a street shot featuring jeans and Lacroix couture sweater declared a new chapter in the magazine’s history.
Today, US Vogue’s pages are populated by a coterie of photographers, editors and designers that provide the magazine with a variable yet consistent visual aesthetic; many of whom have been nurtured and championed by Wintour. Mario Testino, Annie Leibovitz, Craig McDean, Steven Meisel and David Sims are all regular contributors. Wintour has pioneered the use of figures from outside the fashion industry, including basketball player LeBron James and rapper Puff Daddy, to represent the zeitgeist and illustrate her editorial messages.
Wintour’s skill and enduring professionalism is rarely focused upon by the media, following the release of the film The Devil Wears Prada, based on a book of the same name. In typical inscrutable style, Wintour wore Prada to the premier. However, the results her style of editorship garners are irrefutable.
Wintour is a trustee of the New York Metropolitan Museum; her involvement turned the museum’s annual gala into one of the most high profile events of the year. In addition, she is a staunch supporter of the Democratic Party and has raised funds for both Hillary Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s presidential bids. Wintour has two children and is in a relationship with Shelby Bryan, a Texan businessman.