In a rare, candid interview with Imran Amed, published this morning in Business of Fashion, Anna Wintour sat down to discuss her and Vogue’s role in the chaotic, shifty landscape that is the fashion industry right now. It’s a good and juicy read, and not just because we so rarely get to peak behind Wintour’s iconically enigmatic exterior. They cover a lot — cultural trends, photoshop, politics — and Wintour, although cautious with her wording, seems pretty game to dig in. Below are 10 takeaways if you don’t have time to read yourself.
But first, her opening remark, because it tickled me personally.
Imran Amed: What do you think Vogue stood for back in 1892 when it was founded, and how has that changed?
Anna Wintour: Well, I wasn’t around in 1892, believe it or not! But Vogue was a society magazine.
Lol. Here’s what else she covered:
She knows Vogue needs to change – but that doesn’t scare her.
“We have to reflect the world that we live in,” she says. “I think fashion, and I count [Vogue] within that too, has been guilty of being too narrow minded, and thank god that’s changing.” She knows a “traditional company is the most difficult to pivot,” but “the opportunities are thrilling, they’re daunting too at times, but they’re also thrilling.”
One way she’s helping Vogue do that is by holding “ETF meetings,” which stands for Editorial Task Force. (Does anyone else delight in Wintour using acronyms?) The ETF is made up of industry leaders from different spaces, and they come together regularly to discuss cultural shifts.
Anna, regarding Vogue’s March cover: Haters will say it’s photoshopped.
When Amed brings up the controversy surrounding Vogue’s March issue — which centered around the idea that, for an issue focused on “inclusivity,” it wasn’t diverse enough and looked photoshopped — Wintour shrugs it off. “It wasn’t Photoshopped!” And then: “If you worry about every little tiny criticism, you won’t get up in the morning. It just comes with the territory.”
She’s not interested in chasing clicks.
Although she has to ignore some of the noise in order to do her job, Wintour says she appreciates the amount of feedback Vogue gets, regardless of its tone. It keeps the team focused on quality. “[People] remain engaged and involved and tell us what they feel and what they think — and to me that is the best reward. You can’t chase the clicks, you can’t chase the fast buck.”
She doesn’t identify as a micromanager.
Despite her reputation for being, above all, precise, she believes in letting people do their thing. “I like to know what’s going on and am aware, but I’m not a micro-manager,” she says. “I don’t feel people work the best way under those circumstances — if they feel someone is always watching every single thing.”
She’s really into maximalism rn.
In discussing the hullabaloo that now surrounds fashion week, Wintour says she’s glad editors aren’t just dressed in black anymore. That she appreciates any industry changes that reflect an excitement for fashion. She’s inspired by street-style slideshows and outfits put together in unexpected ways. (Hi Leandra.)
It reminded her of a maximalist editorial she wants to do. “We were talking just the other day for a story we’re hoping Grace [Coddington] will shoot on the creativity of chaos,” she says. “We got that idea most strongly from Miuccia [Prada’s] runway show, where it showed everything all sort of jumbled up and looking like it came from different countries and different identities.”
She’s not afraid to get political.
Per her earlier comment about Vogue’s responsibility to reflect the times, she knows that, right now, that strongly points towards politics. “We know that our readers are interested in politics, we know they’re interested in women, we know they’re interested in the world.” She says that might manifest more literally — like in Vogue’s recent feature on UK Prime Minister Theresa May — or more subtly, such as with a focus this year to feature women from all walks of life.
She believes dissent is not enough and is a fan of reaching across the aisle.
Wintour notes that the conversation around politics seems to be “calming down,” that we’ve entered a period of more serious “assessment.” She sees this not as an opportunity to rest on our laurels, but as one to reflect on what we truly believe and decide how best we can support those beliefs. “So let’s try — to use a well-worn phrase — to reach across the aisle and see what we can do to work together. I really believe that — because just dissent is not enough.”
When Amed asks how she feels about Trump’s importation policies and the claims that they could adversely affect the fashion industry, she says, “I don’t think we have clarity on that. He has said many things, but what can he actually achieve? There are a lot of checks and balances along the way.”
She imagines Vogue will “probably” cover Melania.
On the heels of some conversations around whether fashion media sites have a duty, ethically or otherwise, to cover or not cover Melania Trump, Wintour says Vogue probably will. “I can’t imagine that we wouldn’t at some point cover the first lady, but we’ve got nothing planned right now.” Interesting.
She thinks the age of global brands getting all the attention is over.
She notes how the fashion industry it shifting to benefit up-and-comers. “I think it used to be that the American fashion landscape was made up of some very dominant brands. Whether that was Calvin, Ralph, Donna, Michael and Marc — they were really household names and to grow and become anything close to that was a 10-year exercise.” Now, she says, with a little business savvy and a lot of talent, any young designer can find a customer. She doesn’t cast judgement on this shift — just acknowledges it.
She knows customers are more sophisticated now, and can’t be tricked.
Wintour says the customers are changing, too, and Vogue recognizes that. “It’s also incredible how sophisticated the customer is and how much they know and how they don’t want to be taken advantage of — even a customer who has time and is privileged and has money and can spend a lot on clothes. They will price out something online and not want to be taken advantage of and I think that’s a huge, huge change.”
For posterity, I’ll leave you with the closing comments, because I kind of loved them:
Imran Amed: But how do you respond when people say you’re the most powerful figure in fashion and that the whole industry works based on what you say?
Anna Wintour: It simply isn’t true. It simply isn’t true. I love my job, I love everything about it. I love the additional responsibility that I have as artistic director and I love journalism. My dad was an editor, my brother is a political editor, it is just a world that I am steeped in. And honestly without sounding pretentious, I don’t think about power or what that brings me. What does that really bring? A good table at a restaurant? I just try to use my position to help Condé Nast and to help others.
Imran Amed: Then why do you think that myth has developed around you?
Anna Wintour: I can’t answer that.
Photo by D Dipasupil via Getty Images.