Vogue editor Anna Wintour talks about fashion, sport, politics and 21st Century Vogue: “I don’t think it’s a moment not to take a stand.”

Speaking about Michelle Obama, Wintour praised the former first lady for her fearlessness and for transforming the role. "She was just so inspiring to so many women. And obviously -- on a very selfish note, speaking as the editor-in-chief of Vogue -- she did wonders for fashion. She loved fashion. "We always had a tradition at Vogue to photograph the first ladies when they first came in to office -- some extraordinary, wonderful women, and it was an honor to photograph them. But they were always super cautious about what they wanted to wear and the image that they wanted to present: Nearly always a jacket, maybe some pearls if you were Mrs. Bush. But with Mrs. Obama, she was fearless and it was just such a joy for all of us that work in fashion." New Zealand's prime minister Jacinda Ardern, who has been widely praised for her response to the terror attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, is another female politician who has been featured in the magazine. "I think that she's an exceptionally direct, articulate person," Wintour said of Ardern. "And there is no sense that she's ever on message. "She truly brought the country together in such a remarkable way that I haven't seen many other leaders achieve. And she was just so moving, and when she said, 'we are all one country,' it was a message that a lot of other leaders could learn from."

CNN’s Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour interviewed Anna Wintour in New York on Friday, April 5, 2019.

Fiona Sinclair Scott, CNN; Interview by Christiane Amanpour, CNN

Anna Wintour’s omnipresent status, crafted over a three-decade-long career at the helm of Vogue, is unrivalled in the fashion industry. Her reputation has transcended that of the magazine she edits, her image — immaculately sliced bob, sunglasses — now instantly recognizable in silhouette or line sketch.

Anna Wintour attends Oscar De La Renta's 2018 show, in New York City.
Anna Wintour attends Oscar De La Renta’s 2018 show, in New York City. Credit: Mike Coppola/Getty Images North America/Getty Images for NYFW:

If the late Karl Lagerfeld was fashion’s commander-in-chief, Wintour is its head of state, enigmatically presiding over matters of style and culture far above the average Vogue reader’s head.

She acts as a tastemaker and strategic adviser for the CEOs of luxury companies, uses her platform for philanthropic good (AIDS research in particular) and has transformed the Met Gala — an annual benefit for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute — into a night of Oscar-level red carpet excitement and serious fundraising. In 2015, the New York Times reported that the gala had raised over $145 million under Wintour’s reign, a figure that will likely surpass $200 million after next month’s event.

Anna Wintour attends the "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion & The Catholic Imagination" Costume Institute Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 7, 2018 in New York City.
Anna Wintour attends the “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion & The Catholic Imagination” Costume Institute Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 7, 2018, in New York City. Credit: Jason Kempin/Getty Images North America/Getty Images

Wintour will turn 70 this year and, if Vogue’s assertion that she’ll stay on is to be believed, she may be embarking on the most challenging years of her career. Like many legacy media businesses, Vogue and its parent company Condé Nast are undergoing a moment of reckoning. The publisher has recently shuttered a number of publications in its portfolio, including the print editions of Glamour, Teen Vogue and Self magazine.

Yet, the Condé Nast offices in London — often pitched as a “digital hub” for many of its titles, including Vogue — have grown dramatically in size and scale over the last 18 months. New digital-only publications, including Vogue Business, have also been launched. Nonetheless, in the same way, that steering a ship is entirely different from driving a speedboat, media giant Vogue can’t adapt as quickly as some of its younger, smaller, digitally native competitors.


Speaking about Michelle Obama, Wintour praised the former first lady for her fearlessness and for transforming the role. “She was just so inspiring to so many women. And obviously — on a very selfish note, speaking as the editor-in-chief of Vogue — she did wonders for fashion. She loved fashion.
“We always had a tradition at Vogue to photograph the first ladies when they first came into office — some extraordinary, wonderful women, and it was an honour to photograph them. But they were always super cautious about what they wanted to wear and the image that they wanted to present: Nearly always a jacket, maybe some pearls if you were Mrs Bush. But with Mrs Obama, she was fearless and it was just such a joy for all of us that work in fashion.” – CNN

Beyoncé photographed by Tyler Mitchell for Vogue. Credit: Tyler Mitchell
Beyoncé photographed by Tyler Mitchell for Vogue. Credit: Tyler Mitchell

Speaking exclusively to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in New York, Wintour expressed optimism about the changing media landscape she now finds herself in. “I think we’re so fortunate today to have so many different channels in which to speak to our audiences,” she said.”If you go back to when I was a young girl growing up in Britain, and (when) I went for my first job, it was considered a great thing if we reached an audience of 90,000 people with a monthly magazine. Now we have, I believe, 22 million followers on Instagram alone at Vogue US. So we are talking to men and women all over the world … in so many different ways (and) in a way that we couldn’t possibly have imagined even 10 years ago, 15 years ago.”

Wintour was speaking the day after Condé Nast appointed Roger Lynch, former CEO of the music streaming service Pandora, as its first global chief executive. The news came less than six months after the publisher announced that it would merge Condé Nast International (headquartered in London) with Condé Nast (the US arm), a restructuring that also saw the company’s CEO, Bob Sauerberg, step down.Rumors around Wintour’s potential exit predate the latest upheavals — and they swirled again last summer. Wagging tongues were once again silenced by Sauerberg’s insistence that Vogue’s editor-in-chief would stay on “indefinitely.”

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