Lessons from Anna Wintour, Pope of the Fashion World

Anyone who has seen The Devil Wears Prada will inevitably draw parallels between the ruthless fictional fashion editor Miranda Priestly and real-life queen of fashion Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue since 1988 and newly-crowned artistic director of Condé Nast. It is difficult to fully grasp the extent of Wintour’s enormous influence. She can make or break careers; designers rethink their collections if she doesn’t like them; she famously once got Milan fashion week moved to fit her schedule. Dubbed “Nuclear Wintour” for her reportedly aloof and demanding personality, the most famous woman in fashion has hit back at critics, exclaiming, “I have so many people here […] that have worked with me for 15, 20 years, and, you know, if I’m such a bitch, they must really be a glutton for punishment because they’re still here […] If one comes across sometimes as being cold or brusque, it’s simply because I’m striving for the best”. At the end of the day, she’s only human – and the reality doesn’t exactly match up to the rumours. (If you really want an idea of what it’s like to work at Vogue, watch 2009 documentary The September Issue.)

Wintour is instantly recognisable by her trademark pageboy bob and ubiquitous sunglasses, which are said to be corrective lenses for her deteriorating vision and act as “armor” (in her own words), allowing her to keep her reactions to a show private. Her dress sense has remained fairly consistent throughout her extensive career: printed frocks, three-pieces and tweeds are often paired with simple nude sandals and a chunky necklace. Over three decades she’s managed to dodge the worst trends (think crop tops, acid wash jeans and leg warmers), and in recent years she has embraced a more conservative style, sticking to classic silhouettes with nipped-in waists and below-the-knee hems. Her looks are simple, effortless and attainable, which is fitting for a woman who has defended the democratisation of exclusive luxury brands: “It means more people are going to get better fashion […] And the more people who can have fashion, the better.”

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But Wintour hasn’t shied away from more adventurous looks: a notable fan of fur, she has been photographed in garments ranging from a full-length leopard-print coat to a dress embroidered with a sequinned lobster. She sends out the message that it’s okay to like what you like. Be bold and don’t be afraid to re-wear your favourite pieces. In her own words, “Create your own style […] let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others.” Amen, Anna! (She isn’t called the Pope of the fashion world for nothing.)

 

IN PICTURES: A Celebration of Anna Wintour’s Style

 

At the Met Gala 2011

 

At the WSJ Magazine 2012 Innovator of the Year Awards

 

At the “From Queen to Empress: Victorian Dress 1837-1888” Costume Exhibit in New York City in 1988

 

 

At the Louis Verdad Fall 2005 presentation

 

At the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2011

 

At the opening of the Galleries Lafayette store in 1991 in New York City

 

At The Burden Center’s 12th Annual Dinner Dance in 1991