Vogue seems to many a sort of fashion Bible that is courteous enough to schedule delivery to your door each month to keep you informed of the fashion world’s latest and greatest as you page through its ads and articles, sighing at the new Dolce and Gabbana line, dog-earing a page with a particularly gorgeous pair of Alexander McQueen shoes, seeing what Hamish Bowles has been up to recently (relaxing at an English country house? Flea-marketing in Paris?), and examining the latest Annie Liebovitz photograph (which are always always always stunning). And when you have to use both hands to drag the September issue out of your mailbox because of its considerable heft, forget it—hold my calls for the afternoon, order a pizza, we’re in for a long night.
And then there’s the very woman behind it all—Vogue’s long-standing editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, easily one of the most influential figures in fashion. Born in November of 1949 in London—the eldest of her four siblings—Wintour’s mother was a philanthropist and her father an editor at the London Evening Standard who taught her much about the publishing industry. Before she started at Vogue, Wintour dropped out of the finishing school where she was enrolled and started her career in the fashion department of Harper’s & Queen in London before moving to New York in 1976 when she took over as fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar. From there she worked for a few more magazines before returning to London in 1986 as chief editor for British Vogue. After a brief respite at Home and Garden (also a Condé Nast publication, like Vogue), Wintour was named editor-in-chief of Vogue, and she returned to New York once more. At that time Vogue had been around for several decades but was quickly losing readership to Elle, a relatively new publication, and Wintour had almost carte blanche freedom to do what it took to revitalize the magazine—which she obviously did and excelled at. Vogue currently reaches nearly 11.5 million readers in print each month.
Anna Wintour’s fashion influence comes from her very position—her decisions of what is featured in Vogue has monumental impact on not only designers but on retailers and everyday people. Her trademark pageboy haircut, oversized sunglasses, and reportedly aloof demeanor have further helped to establish Wintour as a recognizable figure. In 2013 Wintour was named Artistic Director of Condé Nast and has received numerous awards over the years for her leadership and charitable works—she has reportedly raised over $100 million for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, and over $10 million for AIDS charities.
However you break it down, Vogue is one of the most popular and influential publications today, and it’s a result of Anna Wintour’s work and dedication to all things fashion. As Wintour herself said, “You just need to have a love for what you’re doing. It’s not about thinking that it’s the cool thing; it’s about really believing in it.” Solid advice all around, I would say.
Written by Heather Cox for Rice and Beans Vintage.