A Guide to Anna Wintour by Gerald Odell
Odell delves deep into Anna Wintour’s ambition and hierarchical dynamics within the fashion industry in this book, detailing her formidable ambition and abilities as a combatant against rivals like Grace Mirabella who she successfully ousted as editor of Vogue.
Wintour made her first foray into fashion journalism shortly after graduating from North London Collegiate School with Harper’s & Queen magazine; then soon set her sights on Vogue as the magazine of choice for fashion journalism.
Early Life and Education
Anna Wintour owed much of her success and social connections to the influence of both of her parents. But it was Chilly Charlie (her British father), editor of London Evening Standard and its associated newspaper group that provided Anna with an impressive start. Chilly Charlie instilled in Anna a fierce work ethic; an affinity for older men (many of her boyfriends were considerably older), and an air of unperturbed impassivity that helped create Anna Wintour as she made history at Vogue.
As a teenager, Wintour began her fashion career when her father arranged for her to work at Bib boutique. Later years in journalism were marked by two major cultural movements and according to Jerry Oppenheimer’s 2005 unauthorised biography Front Row these experiences contributed to Wintour’s aggressive and authoritarian leadership style.
Wintour has long had an influence over fashion. She not only selects covers to feature but also helps introduce young designers by celebrating them, breaking into them as soon as they start designing, or acting as an intermediary in deals between Thom Browne and Brooks Brothers retailers – for which she serves as power broker.
Odell notes that Wintour was driven to succeed largely by her father, Chilly Charlie – an influential editor at London Evening Standard who instilled in his daughter a fierce work ethic, an affinity for Svengali-type older men (many of whom were significantly older than she), and an air of invincibility.
She has made headlines for her management style at Vogue, making her one of the most powerful women in publishing. She has never shied away from taking risks with new approaches – like using actresses as cover subjects instead of models or including low-end fashion in photoshoots.
Achievement and Honors
Wintour has earned herself a reputation for her tight grip and temperamental behavior, earning the nickname of the “Nuclear Wintour.” Yet despite these issues, she managed to revitalize Vogue magazine in America and introduce its spinoffs Teen Vogue Living Vogue Men’s Vogue.
She has also worked to promote fashion designers, being involved with both the Council of Fashion Designers of America and Vogue Fashion Fund. For these contributions to fashion and journalism, in 2017 she was honored with being awarded a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Her outspoken nature has often made her the target of public attacks, including when Women’s Wear Daily reporter Peter Braunstein allegedly planned to kill her over perceived slights he felt she had experienced; luckily he was caught before carrying out this plan.
The magazine editor is well known for remaining private about her life. She has been married twice and has two children: one son is currently studying to become a child psychiatrist while her daughter works on television.
Wintour has revolutionized Vogue into an accessible publication for younger women while serving as artistic director for publisher Conde Nast.
She is known to support young designers, yet animal rights activists have often criticised her for endorsing fur products.
Former assistant Lauren Weisberger wrote The Devil Wears Prada (2003), which was then made into a film in 2006. Meryl Streep played Wintour and surprised all when she showed up to her premiere wearing Prada as an homage to its title.
Wintour’s annual salary at Vogue combined with her substantial assets make her one of the wealthiest women in fashion. Additionally, she gives generously to charities and hosts high-profile fundraising events such as The Met Gala benefit held each year at The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute.
She has long held strong ties with New York City, having established and co-hosted Vogue-sponsored Fashion’s Night Out to stimulate its retail industry in 2009. Additionally, she established and co-chairs the CFDA/Vogue Fund as a way of supporting and mentoring fashion designers.
Elizabeth Shaffer is a trustee and Costume Institute gala chair for the Met, having held that post since 1999. As a philanthropist she has hosted high-profile benefits for AIDS charities since 1990. As a mother to two children (Katherine known as Bee), Bee is her main priority. Shaffer divorced David Shaffer in 1999 before entering a relationship with business investor Shelby Bryan.