>> Mario Testino photographed Anna Wintour for the April 2011 cover of WSJ.
>> Mario Testino photographed Anna Wintour for the April 2011 cover of WSJ. — likely at her request (he often shoots Vogue's covers). Because if there's one thing about Wintour, it's that she does things on her own terms.
Si Newhouse (chairman of Advance Publications, which owns Vogue) attests with an anecdote about a Fashion's Night Out meeting Wintour held in Paris, which had 30 international Vogue editors and publishers in attendance: "It was the first time anybody had gotten them all together. She didn't need my authority to do it — she has a remarkable ability to impose her will. If I had had reservations, she probably would have gone ahead anyway."
Marc Jacobs, too, confirms: "If I get a request for something I don't want to do, first I get an email, then a phone call from someone at Vogue, and now I don't even bother to say no — I know the next call is from her." And New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who Wintour has worked with on a number of initiatives — including Fashion's Night Out — says: "Behind all Anna's grace and poise is some pretty tough resolve. She's not a person you want to say no to."
Even the Costume Institute has bowed to Wintour's requests (she has raised a grand total of $75 million for the organization, after all). For last year's gala, she had a 30-foot hot-air balloon trucked in from South Dakota to float above the museum's Engelhard Court. "When we first saw it, we go, 'Never! We can't have gas in the museum!' " says Met president Emily Rafferty. "Anna's changed our attitude — she's brought us to new levels of thinking of what we can do, but without ever losing sight that we're working in a museum context here."
Needless to say, Wintour's reach extends much further than fashion. Harvey Weinstein, who has known Wintour for 15 years (and more recently married Marchesa's Georgina Chapman), notes: "I'm a streak player, but Anna's there, good or bad. When I wasn't doing so well, Anna would throw a party and put me next to Bernard Arnault." Although he declined to be specific, Weinstein said that he had several business deals come out of that party. And Baz Luhrmann, who just recently cast Wintour favorite Carey Mulligan to star in his upcoming film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, says: "I always talk to Anna about what I'm up to, and I always listen to what she has to say."
Within fashion, too, Wintour is more than just an editor. As Francois-Henri Pinault, head of PPR, says: "She tackles things that are really much bigger than what any other editors take on." Because of Wintour, Pinault is currently discussing how to financially support young designers with the French government. But Wintour never straight-out asks him to do something: "She's much more subtle than that."
She's also something of a matchmaker — whether it's designer to brand (in the case of placing John Galliano at Christian Dior back in 1996; Bernard Arnault — chairman of LVMH, which owns Dior — says of Wintour: "She pointed us towards unexpected choices. I speak very openly to her, and this was quite audacious — it was not about picking the big names of the moment. It took her to see that there was a stylistic closeness between John and Dior. She was the discoverer.") or brand to financier (in the case of Bottega Veneta and Gucci Group or Michael Kors and Sportswear Holdings). "She does this very discreetly, but she's really a kind of consigliere to the entire fashion and retail industry," one former colleague who worked closely with Wintour says. Another former colleague, who attended several corporate matchmaking meetings with Wintour, adds: "I came to realize that she's really the McKinsey of fashion." As for Wintour's word on the matter? "We can suggest," she says, "but in the end, everybody makes up their own minds."
It sounds like Wintour isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Vogue is Conde Nast's most profitable publication, Si Newhouse confirms, adding that he has no successor in mind: "Never. I hope she's here 10 years from now, 20 years from now." Wintour, for her part, says: "With all the new media outlets out there, with all the noise, a voice of authority and calm like Vogue becomes more important than ever. The more eyes on fashion, the more opinions about fashion, the more exploration of fashion around the world, the better it is for Vogue. Vogue is like Nike or Coca-Cola — this huge global brand. I want to enhance it, I want to protect it, and I want it to be part of the conversation."
A few more quotables from the WSJ. profile:
Marc Jacobs on Wintour's cold reputation: "She gets such a bad rap. She stands by the people she believes in, and if you're not one of those people, perhaps you take a different view."
Wintour's take on her reputation: "I care deeply about my friends and my family and they know it, but work is work."
Wintour on cover choice regrets: "I'm not terribly proud of putting the Spice Girls on the cover."
Wintour on the John Galliano scandal: "This is all so tragic."
Wintour on being criticized for using the same people in Vogue: "I try to remain open to new people, but obviously there's a stronger element of trust with people you've known for a long time. I think we have a Vogue vocabulary, and there are certain people we like to have as the backbone of the magazine — Vogue's signposts. We try very hard to integrate the familiar signatures with people we feel are new and up-and-coming, but I would rather err on the side of being a little more familiar than being too . . . What's the right word? . . . Edgy."
WSJ. on Wintour's morning habits: "When I met Wintour in her big, artfully tidy office at Vogue, she had been up since 5 am — her normal waking hour. On most days she goes off to play tennis at 6, but lately she's been nursing a sore elbow and can't play. Which didn't mean no tennis."