#StoriesOfStyle: Anna Wintour: A Fashion Pioneer

Author: Laura Mariani

Today rounds off our 5 days of posts by Laura Mariani, management consultant, and founder of The People's Alchemist and entrepreneurial lifestyle blog The Alchemist About Town.

Over the past 5 days Laura has shared with us stories of 5 leading ladies who have inspired her throughout her life, from Coco Chanel and Audrey Hepburn to Jackie Kennedy and Margaret Thatcher. And today she rounds off the series with one of the most impressive ladies in society today: the formidable Anna Wintour. 

Newly appointed Dame Anna Wintour is a great inspiration for me both because she showed the way of what is possible if you really believe and follow your convinctions and because she has helped to shape the world of fashion and support/promote many designers I love.

Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue and the artistic director of Condé Nast, is widely regarded as the most influential figure in fashion and arguably one of the most commercially minded editor ever.

She was born in Hampstead, London, the daughter of an American mother and an English father; she started her career in 1970, working in the fashion department at Harpers & Queen in London. Six years later, she joined Harper's Bazaar in New York as its Fashion Editor. After a stint as Senior Editor controlling the title's fashion and lifestyle coverage, Wintour was named Creative Director of American Vogue in 1983. British Vogue hired her back as Editor in Chief for two years. In 1988, she rejoined American Vogue as Editor-in-Chief which she has held since. She also became Artistic Director of Condé Nast in March 2013, and additionally executed the development and successful launch of Teen Vogue in 2001, serving as Editorial Director for the title.

Wintour is a pioneer who, during her tenure at American Vogue , started the practice of featuring celebrities on the cover, took the title’s fashion pages out of the studio and onto the street and used Condé Nast’s flagship influence to champion new American designers through the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. Wintour also launched Fashion’s Night Out.

Her first cover, a street shot featuring jeans and Lacroix couture sweater, declared a new chapter in the magazine’s history. Today, US Vogue’s pages are populated by photographers, editors and designers, many of whom have been nurtured and championed by Wintour, providing the magazine with a constistent visual aesthetic. She also pioneered the use of figures from outside the fashion industry to represent and illustrate her editorial messages.

The New York Times described her as an “in-house consultant for troubled or dated magazines,” the advice of which “can be sought, or delivered.”

Wintour herself said “ Growing up in London in the Sixties you would have to be walking round with Irving Penn’s sack on your head to not realise that something extraordinary was happening in fashion. The look of the girl then and everything that was going on then, the pill and the emancipation of women and the end of the class system, just sort of seeing that revolution go on made me love [fashion] from an early age .”

"There's a new kind of woman out there. She's interested in business and money. She doesn't have time to shop anymore. She wants to know what and why and where and how ."

Anna Wintour played an instrumental role in reviving the magazine. She made changes in staffing, in the style of cover pictures and transformed the publication into a more youthful and receptive one focusing on modern perception on style and fashion targeting a far-reaching audience. She never hesitated to push for new ground that included inducting celebrities instead of supermodels on covers and introducing a mix of expensive and low-end fashion items during her photo shoots.

Her determination pushed American Vogue to regain its position as the frontrunner beating its competition, successfully accomplishing her goal of restoring the position of ‘Vogue’ in her over two decade long career with the magazine

Wintour has also been actively involved in philanthropic fundraising, she is a trustee of the New York Metropolitan Museum and has raised funds regularly for its ‘Costume Institute’ ; her involvement turned the museum’s annual gala into one of the most high profile events of the year.
Since 1990 she has raised funds for the ‘AIDS’ charities, the CDFA/Vogue fund was started by her to aid unknown fashion designers and she aided raising funds for the Twin Towers after the terror attack of September 11, 2001.

Some of her awards:

  • The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Lifetime Achievement Award

  • The British Fashion Awards (BFA) Outstanding Achievement Award

  • The American Foundation for AIDS Research (amFAR) Award of Courage

  • The Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II for her service to British journalism and fashion

  • The Legion d'Honneur by French President Nicolas Sarkozy

  • Wintour’s skill and enduring professionalism is rarely focused upon by the media, her discipline, focus and daily regime are legendary, a committed professional through and through, striving for excellence starting from herself.

  • I know she has been endlessily criticised for being "icy", she certainly has a strong personality, I personally like that.

I concur with her not liking people who'll say yes to everything she says, but wanting people who can argue, and disagree, and have a point of view which she can then reflect in her work ( the magazine).

I understand her love for New York because (quote) " it is a city for people who want to work. And I love that it is a city where everyone is from somewhere else - so you are not judged by your accent, who your dad was, or any of that .." I feel the same about London - which I adore.

Designer John Galliano says he owes his entire success to Wintour’s recommendation whilst Karl Lagerfeld , “She is the most famous fashion journalist in the world. She says what she thinks. That’s why some people think she’s tough.”

Would she had endured the same criticism if she were a man? Doubt it.

"People respond well to those that are sure of what they want"- she has said and - " Why fit in when you were born to stand out".

For me she is a role model, somebody who inspired me to be myself and to go after what I want, unapologetically and that's why she is a personal idol.

And now I've shared my 5 icons, it's now over to you: what woman has inspired you to be who you are today?

Read the rest of Laura's series, including posts on Audrey Hepburn here, Coco Chanel here, Margaret Thatcher here, and Jackie Kennedy here






About the Author:

Laura Mariani is the founder of the lifestyle blog The Alchemist About Town - a lifestyle blog for entrepreneurs, business owners and their employees wanting to experience the best of British food, culture, travel and lifestyle.
Laura is a management consultant and Vice Chair of Islington Commerce of Chamber. Founder of The People Alchemist (a boutique management consultancy), she started The Alchemist About Town after a successful career as Senior director within global brands in FMCG, Retail and Media to mention a few. The blog was born after Laura found limited lifestyle blogs for the modern day business owner/entrepreneurs wanting all things food, fashion and lifestyle, that ties within their unique lifestyle, whilst showcasing the very best of British.
To find out more, you can click here. And Laura can be contacted through laura@thepeoplealchemist.com, and found on twitter @PeopleAlchemist and on instagram @thealchemistabouttown



  • Posted by Hilda Smith on

    Love these posts. I admire Anna Wintour also and I believe she is a wonderful role model.

Leave a comment