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Anna Wintour and the fashion world

The cover of the Japanese edition of “Anna: The Biography” by Amy Odell, published by Kawade Shobo Shinsha

A biography of famed fashion editor Anna Wintour, “Anna: The Biography” by Amy Odell, was translated into Japanese and published by Kawade Shobo Shinsha on December 4 last year. Wintour, 74, chief content officer of Vogue magazine (which no longer uses the title “editor-in-chief”), was born in Britain in 1949. The biography was published in the United States in 2022 and won several awards that year – it was on The New York Times bestseller list, and Bloomberg chose it as one of the ten books to read – a testament to its worldwide popularity, especially in the United States.

In Japan, Vogue may be seen as a high fashion magazine for fashion lovers, but it is one of the most read magazines in the United States. The editor-in-chief is as famous as the American president.

Wintour made headlines in 2005 when she became the target of pie-throwing attacks by an animal rights group because she often wore fur coats in her private life and used fur in Vogue advertisements.

She became even more famous in 2006 when the movie ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ was released. The film is based on the novel by Lauren Weisberger, which tells the story of an aspiring assistant to the editor of a fashion magazine. The similarities between the editor, Miranda, and Wintour were undeniable, although the author denied that the character was modeled on Wintour. In the film, Meryl Streep played Miranda brilliantly as a formidable woman who will do anything to stay in power and ruthlessly reject those who are no longer needed, while always dressing impeccably and looking glamorous.

In February 2006, I saw Wintour sitting front row at Ralph Lauren’s runway show during New York Fashion Week. When she took off her sunglasses, I was amazed by her beauty. When the show ended, I approached her to say “Hello” but was stopped by a large man in a black leather jacket who probably thought I was a pie thrower. I asked him, “Are you Anna’s guard?” and he grinned and said, “Well, something like that.” This man was Andre Leon Talley, Wintour’s right-hand man at the time and editor-in-chief of Vogue. He died in 2022 at the age of 73.

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The cover of “The Chiffon Trenches: A Memoir” by Andre Leon Talley

In 2020, Talley published a memoir titled “The Chiffon Trenches: A Memoir.” He was a fashionable man who attracted attention for his striking clothes and was involved in the editorial staff of Vogue for almost thirty years. In the memoir he revealed Wintour’s ruthlessness. He was a close associate of Wintour, often sitting next to her at catwalk shows, but saw their relationship deteriorate in 2011. He accompanied her to Paris where she was awarded the Legion d’honneur, but she apparently treated him as an assistant. , not a friend, which made him acutely aware of her mercilessness. He was subsequently fired from Vogue without any explanation. He looked back on the dismissal and wrote that Wintour thought he was too old, too heavy and too cool.

Until about 1980, it was undoubtedly designers who led the fashion world, such as Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Yves Saint-Laurent, Giorgio Armani, Gianni Versace, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and so on. The 1980s saw a boom in supermodels. Fashion photographers were also in the spotlight.

However, not since 2000 has there been such a strong leader in the fashion world. To put it even more bluntly, the fashion world is run by a system called business. I feel that in such times the presence of Anna Wintour, who is only an editor, has become strangely bigger than herself.

The pope-like figure in the fashion industry today is undoubtedly Bernard Arnault, the chairman and CEO of LVMH, who built the luxury fashion empire. Annual sales of luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Dior and Bvlgari reached a record €86.2 billion in the financial year ending December last year. Designers may fall into a slump or even die, but there is no weakness in the rock-solid system of luxury brands. Arnault was the first to realize this.

Meanwhile, Wintour has reigned in the top editorial ranks at Conde Nast, the publisher of Vogue, for more than 35 years, since becoming editor-in-chief of the magazine. She is highly trusted by the company’s owner, the Newhouse family. She is also said to be the founder of the Met Gala, which is highly coveted by fashion stars. The reality is that the event has overwhelming power as a fundraising machine for Vogue and Conde Nast. Perhaps Wintour and LVMH founder Arnault represent two sides of the same coin.

According to news sources, more than 400 Conde Nast employees went on strike on January 23 to protest the company’s plan to lay off 5% of its entire workforce. Additionally, it was reported that Anne Hathaway walked out of a photo shoot for Vanity Fair, one of Conde Nast’s magazines, to show her solidarity with the protesters. Hathaway, by the way, played Andrea, the devilish editor’s critical assistant, in “The Devil Wears Prada.”

A New York Times article states that Conde Nast lost more than $120 million in 2017. The company is privately run by the Newhouse family and is therefore not publicly traded, so details are not made public. But the fact that the company is trying to cut staff this year may indicate that the situation has not improved. Although Wintour has been the company’s main breadwinner, her days until retirement may be numbered. I wonder what will become of the fashion world when she is gone.

This is the last part of this column.

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Akira Miura

Miura is a journalist and former editor-in-chief of WWD JAPAN.



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