Anna Wintour, the famous editor of Vogue, is already the most powerful figure in the fashion world, but now she is set to wield even more influence after being named artistic director for the entire Condé Nast publishing empire.
The move ends months of speculation that Wintour was set to mark the 25th anniversary of her reign at Vogue by landing a job as ambassador to Britain or France or even take up a roving cultural role for the US government.
Instead, Wintour, 63, is going to cement her position in Condé Nast, extending her influence and sense of style throughout the entire company which also includes such staples of American life as the New Yorker and Vanity Fair.
Observers said the development showed the extraordinary impact of the British-born Wintour, whose carefully crafted public image as an icy but hugely talented fashion maven has been immortalised in the hit documentary The September Issue and also lampooned in the movie The Devil Wears Prada.
“I think she really wields the power there. Condé Nast does not want to lose her. She has proved herself in a very tough corporate environment and risen to the very top,” said Jerry Oppenheimer, a writer and author of a biography about Wintour called Front Row.
The new post, which is essentially the first of its kind within the firm, will see Wintour take over some of the company-wide duties of Condé Nast’s ageing 85-year-old chairman SI Newhouse. Wintour herself told the New York Times that she saw the job as a “one-person consulting firm” within the stable of magazine titles. She will remain editor of Vogue and editorial director of its younger offshoot, Teen Vogue.
But as Wintour – whose ferocious reputation has seen her dubbed “nuclear Wintour” – climbs yet further in the world of publishing, it does appear that that flurry of rumours around her potential future as an extremely fashionable face of American diplomacy will now come to an end. There had been much speculation that Wintour was being primed for such a job, though some believed the stories were designed to boost her value to Condé Nast and dispel thoughts of unseating her. “I never really believed them,” Oppenheimer said.
Whatever the truth of her prospects as a diplomat, there is certainly no doubt now about how closely the Wintour and Condé Naste brands will be entwined in the future. “They did not want to lose her. She is an extremely valuable part of the Condé Nast empire. I don’t want know that you could ever even put a number on it,” said New York-based features and fashion journalist Melissa Whitworth. “Maybe Condé Nast were frightened by the idea that she would go and work for President Barack Obama. But now this job makes her their figurehead for the whole company.”
It does certainly mark the next stage in a remarkable career. Born in London to Evening Standard editor Charles Wintour, she drifted into journalism, firstly at Harper’s Bazaar in London and then at the magazine’s New York version. She eventually landed the top Vogue job in America and immediately revamped what was then an ailing title.
She became known for using lesser known models and mixed street style with high end fashion. She also, like Christopher Hitchens and Tina Brown, joined a long list of British journalists who fully embraced success on the American side of the Atlantic and rose to the heights of celebrity themselves.
Like a captain of any other industry, Wintour’s word is almost law in fashion. Models and designers alike obey her diktats, something that has earned her praise but also concerned some critics who say Wintour’s tastes distort the market and that some companies end up designing for her, not for the general public. “She was already at the top of the fashion world, and this just makes that official,” said Oppenheimer.
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