11.11.2015 - Carolin Petersen

Fashion People

Icy Wintour


As editor-in-chief of American Vogue, Anna Wintour has been world-famous since the blockbuster The Devil Wears Prada. With her extravagant style of leadership, the aloof Briton supplied the template for a bestseller, which was subsequently filmed starring Meryl Streep. The representation of Wintour is domineering, unapproachable and rather eccentric – all in all not a flattering picture. However, is the woman with the eternal Bob really a Stalin in Stilettos?

The London-born daughter of the former Evening Standard editor Charles Wintour never studied but has always had a target – she wanted Vogue. After being a fashion assistant at Harpers & Queens she was editor of Harper’s Bazaar in New York. The ambitious Wintour took advantage of short stints at less influential magazines like Savvy and Viva in order to make a name for herself with perfectly orchestrated editorials. When she was later employed at renowned New York Magazine, she finally attracted the attention of Condé Nast editorial directors Alex Liberman and Si Newhouse. From then on, the career of the ambitious, talented up-an-coming editor in chief gained momentum.


At the end of the 1980's, a new type of female readers of glossy magazines began to emerge - self-determined, interested in culture, with their own high incomes and corresponding self-assuredness. This transition remained hidden to Grace Mirabella, former editor-in-chief of American Vogue. She produced material that missed the target audience; the readers were dissatisfied and the publisher became more and more concerned. Wintour’s goal had finally moved within striking distance.

With the ‘go-ahead’ from the publisher’s management team, Anna Wintour, as new editor-in-chief was authorised to give Vogue a complete transformation. "I want Vogue to be pacy, sharp, and sexy, I'm not interested in the super-rich or infinitely leisured. I want our readers to be energetic, executive women, with money of their own and a wide range of interests." Instead of perfect faces, models in 50 dollar Jeans and celebrities like Madonna were now seen on the cover. With targeted promotion, the Briton forged the careers of young designers like Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen and John Galliano. When the financial crisis struck globally in 2009, she set up Vogue Fashion’s Night Out and helped New York retailers through the difficult time. With her keen eye for business, Anna Wintour led Vogue into the digital age – without losing circulation or influence.


Today, Anna Wintour is the most powerful woman in the fashion world. As a tough businesswoman, she rules her Vogue empire with a rod of iron. What she says goes. Considering her rigorous perfectionism, it seems strange that women who have appeared in Vogue for several years are not perfect. Is Anna Wintour starting to mellow with age? Or does she recognise that a bit of ease is becoming to women? One thing is certain: Whilst it sells, Anna Wintour will show this side.

Short Facts


She has worn her famous bob with immaculate fringe since she was 14 years old.


With great discipline, Anna Wintour plays tennis every day before work. Her toned arms are the best proof of this. 


When Anna Wintour was called on by Vogue for the first time in 1986, she was asked by the editor-in-chief which job she would like. “Yours” the audacious brunette promptly replied.


2006 Editor of the year from Advertising Age


1949 - Privilege childhood

Anna Wintour is born as the first of four children. Her parents Eleanor Trego Baker and Charles Wintour live in London. Her father is editor-in chief and publisher of the Evening Standard, an influential British tabloid newspaper. Writing and intellectual discussions are encouraged at home.

1964 - Biba

Through her father’s connections, Anna gets her first job in the London Trend Boutique Biba. Her parents who are completely disinterested in fashion hope that it is just a passing phase. They want their daughter to have an intellectual career – preferably with a political orientation.

1966 - Drop-out

Anna leaves the North London Collegiate School a year before reaching the official school leaving age. On no account did she want to go to college and study like her siblings. Instead she works in the luxury department store Harrods and works her way through every department – from high-end jewellery to teen fashion.

1970 - Good contacts

Again, it is her influential father Charles who opens the door through his contacts. In an interview for the new magazine Harpers & Queens – an amalgamation of Harper’s Bazaar and Queen, Anna lies that she has already got experience with fashion shoots. Through this clever move, she beats another competitor from the field from British Vogue and obtains a job as fashion assistant.

1975 - Harper’s Bazaar

Anna Wintour is promoted to Junior Editor at Harper’s Bazaar in New York. But this doesn’t yet fulfil her expectations. Colleagues recall that Anna, already at that time, scribbled Vogue in her notepad whenever she was lost in thought. In a group photo for the March 1976 edition, all the editors are wearing Harper’s Bazaar t-shirts. Only Anna is wearing a Kenzo vest over the top and demonstrably crosses her arms. When she hires models with dreadlocks for a Haute Couture shoot, aversion spreads in the boardroom. Anna Wintour is fired.

1976 - Dubious print

The New York magazine Viva employs Anna Wintour as fashion editor. A rather disreputable wind is blowing here. As Anna Wintour is a bad writer, others have to write for her. That’s why her name doesn’t appear under the fashion spreads that she produces. First this annoyed her immensely. Later on however, it proves useful as she wants to conceal this slippery climb up the career ladder. In 1978, the barely profitable magazine is withdrawn from the market.

1980 - Intermediate step

The fashion editor moves to Savvy, a new magazine for career-conscious women with money. Just like Viva, she receives complete creative freedom. Unfortunately, the job is so poorly paid that Anna can only manage thanks to her wealthy parents that are able to back her up.

1981 - New York Magazine

Anna marries child psychiatrist David Schaffer and moves to the significant New York Magazine as Fashion Editor. She works under the influential Edward Kosner who is tough on Anna. She has to submit to his strict rules and also has to contribute to other areas of the magazine. Through an issue with the actor Rachel Ward on the cover, Anna learns how to sell magazines well with celebrities on the cover; an important insight that will be decisive for her future. 

1983 - A foot in the door

Finally, Anna Wintour gets her chance with American Vogue. Negotiations around her job title drag on longer than those regarding her salary, which she doubles. In the end, she becomes creative director under the editor-in-chief Grace Mirabella whom she despises. Mirabella only learns about her new colleague later and the position that was created specifically for her. The atmosphere is poisoned from the outset. Anna schemes against the editor-in-chief and does what she wants. She knows that she has the unconditional support of the publishers Alex Liberman and Si Newhouse and exploits this unashamedly.

1985 - Back in London

The attempt to oust Grace Mirabella remains unsuccessful. Thus, Anna Wintour does not have to think twice when she is offered editor-in-chief of British Vogue.  She moves to London. With the assumption of power, Wintour fires half the staff. Only those who are young stay and thus represent the magazine accordingly. More than any chief-editor before, she takes control of the content and moves British Vogue away from its traditional eccentricity. She has to conform to the line of the American sister magazine. "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." In the same year, Anna welcomes here first child, Charles - known as Charlie - into the world.

1987 - House & Garden

The Condé Nast chief calls Anna Wintour back to New York in order to breathe new life to lifestyle magazine House & Garden. Just like with British Vogue, she fires a lot of staff and drops images and articles worth 2 million dollars. Instead, celebrities’ houses and more fashion are depicted. Insiders gossip, a much better name for the magazine would be House & Garment or Vanity Chair. Little by little, loyal subscribers angrily jump ship. New fashion-conscious readers are gained. In July of the same year, Anna’s second child, Katherine - known as Bee – is welcomed into the world.

1988 - Finally en Vogue

American Vogue has been a lifestyle magazine under editor-in-chief Grace Mirabella in which fashion no longer plays a leading role. More and more readers turn to the major competition – American Elle. In order to save the fashionable flagship, Condé Nast editor Anna Wintour becomes the new Editor-in-Chief. She has finally fulfilled her dreams. The very first cover is a scandal and a complete success. Instead of the heavily-made up face of a famous model, an unknown beauty wearing a 10,000 dollar Christian Lacroix top and 50 dollar Jeans is featured. Luxury fashion combined with affordable fashion is a revolution. The printer is so bemused that she asks whether the wrong cover has accidentally been supplied. Shortly afterwards, stars like Madonna adorn the cover and increase the sales figures. "Anna saw the celebrity thing coming before everyone else did," recalls creative director Grace Coddington. Vogue is Number 1 again. Under Wintour, Vogue Living, Men’s Vogue and Teen Vogue magazines have also been launched on the market. She remains the Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue today and is regarded as the most powerful person in the fashion world.

2006 - The Devil Wears Prada

The film adaptation, from the novel of the same name by her former assistant Lauren Weisberger, suddenly makes Anna Wintour famous the world over. Although she is not actually named, word soon gets around that she is the alter ego of the eccentric editor-in-chief, played by Meryl Streep. 

2009 - The September Issue

A widely acclaimed documentary about the life and works of Anna Wintour and her team is shown at several festivals and is then screened in cinemas. The September Issue by R. J. Cutler shows behind-the-scenes how the September issue of American Vogue – the most important and most extensive issue of the year – is created.




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