Why Anna is still queen of fashion
The top event of Milan's couture calendar is in shock from the news that the 'Vogue' editor-in-chief will be in town for just three days. Deirdre Reynolds explains why.
She's had the same hairstyle for decades and regularly commits the style sin of wearing sunglasses indoors, but it seems Anna Wintour's stranglehold on the world of fashion is as airtight as ever. Milan Fashion Week, which runs from February 24-March 2, has been thrown into chaos in recent days with news that the Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue will occupy her usual front-row perch for just three days.
Powerhouse labels like Prada and Dolce & Gabbana are scurrying to secure shows that will be seen by the fashion icon -- while designers relegated to either side of her visit might as well pack up and go home now.
She has reportedly cut her trip so she can fit in Paris Fashion Week before jetting home in time for the Oscars on March 7.
"It has bad consequences for many, many people involved in the shows, from stylists to models to hairdressers," said Mario Boselli, president of the Italian Fashion Chamber.
Without hyperbole, top broadsheet Corriere della Sera howled: "Anna Wintour, the woman who holds Italian fashion in the palm of her hand".
So how did this little woman with the pageboy haircut become fashion's femme fatale?
"Anna Wintour certainly isn't the most 'stylish' woman in fashion," says Liz Greehy, editor of Stylebible.ie, "but she's definitely the most powerful. To be revered by Anna Wintour is to be revered by American Vogue, the world's acknowledged fashion Bible -- and its readers."
"In readership terms, Vogue isn't the most popular fashion magazine but the hardcore fashion worshippers who read it are worth more to designers; they're the ones forking out on high-end fashion."
Despite being the subject of continued retirement rumours, British-born Wintour (60) doesn't look like relinquishing the reins on a near 40-year career in publishing any time soon.
But her incredible career achievements -- including stints at Harper's Bazaar, British Vogue and House and Garden -- are usually overshadowed by her notoriety for being an ice queen.
Dubbed an 'editrix', Wintour will forever be interchangeable with Miranda Priestly -- the caricature played by Meryl Streep in 2006's The Devil Wears Prada. Based on a book by former assistant Lauren Weisberger, the movie cemented the Vogue vixen's reputation as a ball-busting boss.
However, from her signature bloody-rare hamburger to her unapologetic penchant for fur, the mum-of-two gleefully plays up to her image, even showing up to the premiere in -- what else? -- Prada.
For Wintour, it's all about numbers -- not niceties.
When she joined Vogue in 1988, it was fast losing ground to rival Elle magazine. But her leadership is credited with reinstating the faltering monthly to its elitist status of Fashion Bible.
Putting celebrities instead of supermodels on the cover, mixing haute couture with affordable fashion and championing unknown designers, she made the 118-year-old institution relevant to 1.3 million women today.
Wintour's subordinates might not appreciate her management style (which includes pointing out when they're looking podgy), but Condé Nast seems happy to pay a rumoured $2m (€1.5m) salary plus perks like a $200,000 (€147,000) clothing allowance and limo for her services.
Last year's documentary The September Issue revealed the work that goes into producing an issue of Vogue. Touted as 'the real Devil Wears Prada', it presented her as a professional perfectionist rather than a callous overachiever.
Summing up just what has designers so worried ahead of Milan Fashion Week, director RJ Cutler said: "You can make a movie without Stephen Spielberg's blessing and you can publish software without Bill Gates' blessing, but you can't get a dress you designed on a rack without Anna Wintour's blessing."