In 2018, Queen Elizabeth II and Anna Wintour were photographed laughing in the front row of a Richard Quinn fashion show in London, just two rather powerful grannies chatting away. For Britain’s longest-serving monarch, now 96, it was a rare fashion week outing, but for American Vogue’s longest-serving editor, now aged 72 years old was business as usual. Editor-in-chief of Vogue since 1988 and global content director for Condé Nast since 2020, Ms Wintour is no stranger to feeling lonely and queen of being on top. With typical understatement, she later told former Vanity Fair editor and sometimes rival Tina Brown that on the show she and the Queen discussed “how long we’ve both been occupying our post”.
Like the Queen, part of Mrs. Wintour’s status as an object of fascination lies in her sheer longevity. From last night’s star-studded “Gilded-Age”-themed Met Gala (to which she wore a tiara that’s a family heirloom), which she’s been hosting since 1995, to her ongoing promotions at the notoriously fickle Condé Nast amid decades of cultural shifts, she’s just as powerful as ever. “Anna,” a biography by journalist Amy Odell out today from Gallery Books, seeks to explain her omnipotence.
“It’s one thing to get to the top and it’s another to stay there,” said Ms Odell, who worked for New York magazine’s The Cut and also wrote the 2015 book ‘Tales from the Back Row: An Outsider’s View from Inside”. The fashion industry.
How is Mrs. Wintour doing? By wielding power over competitors and underlings, as depicted in the 2006 film “The Devil Wears Prada,” based on the roman à clef by his former assistant Lauren Weisberger? By adhering to a militaristic schedule of tennis matches at 5 a.m., professional hair and makeup at 6 a.m., and arriving at the office very early? Focusing on the bottom line, whether it’s newsstand sales, digital metrics, or dollars earned? Trying to go with the cultural flow?
Ms. Odell’s book explores these questions through interviews with more than 250 fashion insiders. Although it features interviews with members of Ms Wintour’s inner circle, World of Interiors editor Hamish Bowles; garden designer and bestie Miranda Brooks; tennis player and confidante Serena Williams; designer Tom Ford – this does not include interviews with his immediate family, nor with Ms Wintour herself. Ms Odell speculated that her participation would not have changed the book much, given Ms Wintour’s reputation for being reserved and unwilling to dwell on the past.
The doors opened for Ms. Odell when Ms. Wintour provided a list of contacts to interview for the book, which a Condé Nast rep said is standard practice for any great story. But last week the company issued a chilling statement about the completed work: “‘Anna: The Biography’ was written without Anna’s input and unfortunately she has not had the opportunity to verify anything. be in.”
By providing an organized list of A-list contacts, Ms. Wintour characteristically exerted influence over others. “I learned about all this power brokering she does behind the scenes,” Ms Odell said. “That’s really all about this network that she has methodically built over more than three decades.”
Ms Wintour’s telephone networking style has fallen out of fashion in favor of emails, DMs and Insta friendships. In the book, examples of her influence go well beyond fashion to include entertainment, politics and sports. According to the book, Bradley Cooper gave him his “A Star is Born” script to think about before he got his star. Her Democratic fundraising efforts have led to conversations about an ambassadorship. Ms Wintour even gave winning Wimbledon advice to Serena Williams during a crisis. (The tennis player claims to not remember what was said, leading Ms. Odell to admit, “The problem with biography is that you’re really dealing with human memory.”)
You know who else likes talking on the phone and having in-person meetings with powerful people? Old-school businessmen such as Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump, both of whom circled Ms Wintour’s orbit. Ms. Odell’s detailed chronicles of her interactions with the pair show how adept Ms. Wintour is at complicated power brokering and ultimately how she cuts ties with those who threatened to tarnish her brand, as she did. in both cases.
A high-level brain trust is crucial to Ms. Wintour’s worldview. Last weekend, when she spoke at the memorial service for her friend and staff member André Leon Talley, she said she was impressed by those around her when they met in 1983. “Karl, Oscar , Yves, Diane – and it was just people calling him before lunch,” she said. “It seemed to me that he was more connected than the queen.”
But the book highlights the limits of Ms. Wintour’s old-school networking and work ethic. The blind spots of his tenure, from a damaging 2011 story about Syrian President Bashar Assad’s wife Asma, to tone-deaf magazine articles such as model Karlie Kloss dressed as a geisha are detailed. Through a representative, Ms Wintour declined to comment on the specific cases described in the book, but reiterated that the book had not been vetted by her team.
Such weaknesses amid the legacy media upheaval fuel rumors of Ms Wintour’s retirement. She is happy to close them. In 2008, when a reporter for a New York magazine asked her about retirement talk, she said, “I’m really sorry, I think that’s an extremely rude question. Leave me alone.”
But for now, she stays. Ms Odell writes: “She is, in a capitalist society, exactly the kind of person that a company like Condé Nast wants to keep at all costs, no matter how many lower-level workers think she should quit, and no matter how how exclusive it is. management style has been.
As a genre, fashion books tend to be beautiful messes, reflecting the chaotic creative lives of those depicted. Think “A Beautiful Fall,” about the 1970s by Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent, or the dozens of memoirs by Mrs. Wintour’s contemporaries such as the diaries of Mr. Talley, Bill Cunningham or Tina Brown. But “Anna” reflects its subject matter in that it’s crisp and efficient, depicting the ups and downs of her life without much verve or drama.
Instead, the book comes to life in every detail. There’s Mrs. Wintour’s lunch, ordered from The Palm near One World Trade Center, consisting, on occasion, of steak and Caprese salad, containing the tomatoes. There was this time in Paris where she left the Ritz before 5 a.m. to play tennis, only to come across Hamish Bowles returning from a party. And the 1996 Four Seasons Christmas luncheon in which an anti-fur intruder allegedly dropped a frozen raccoon to his table. As Condé Nast’s budgets shrink, workers unionize, and printed pages dwindle, these are the oddities of a kingdom with only one queen left.
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