American Vogue reaches more than 12 million readers in print and an average of 1.2 million online visitors per month. The undoubted importance of the magazine is clearly due to its editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, who has been considered the most influential figure in the fashion world for decades and is arguably the most commercial editor ever, and has always used her position to put the magazine at the commercial heart of the industry.
“Growing up in London in the sixties, you’d have had to have Irving Penn’s sack over your head not to know that something quite extraordinary was happening in fashion. The way girls looked at that time and everything that was happening at that time, the emancipation of women and the end of the class system, seeing this revolution made me fall in love with fashion at a very young age.” After moving to New York, Wintour became a junior fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar and in 1980 took a position at Savvy magazine, which focused on independent, career-conscious women – the readership she later targeted at Vogue. Wintour was then chosen by Alex Liberman to be creative director of Vogue in the US and then editor-in-chief of British Vogue in 1985, where she made sweeping changes.
“There is a new kind of woman out there. She’s interested in business and money. She no longer has time to shop. She wants to know what, why, where and how”.
Wintour returned to New York in 1987 to take over House & Garden, which was a precursor to the editor-in-chief position at Vogue, and just ten months later, she finally replaced Grace Mirabella. Wintour’s first cover, a street shot with jeans and a Lacroix couture sweater, opened a new chapter in the magazine’s history. Wintour’s expertise and exceptional professionalism rarely find the media spotlight. However, 2006 saw the release of The Devil Wears Prada, a film in which Wintour clearly inspired the main character, the “devil” (played by Oscar-nominated Meryl Streep). Wintour, of course, wore Prada to the premiere.
Today, the pages of US Vogue are populated by a host of the world’s leading photographers, editors and designers – such as Annie Leibovitz, Craig McDean, Steven Meisel and David Sims – who provide a diverse but consistent visual aesthetic for the magazine, many of whom were trained and supported by Wintour himself. Wintour has pioneered the use of personalities from outside the fashion industry – such as LeBron James, Billie Eilish and Serena Williams – to represent the zeitgeist and illustrate her editorial messages.
Over the decades, she has grown into perhaps the most influential figure in the fashion world, setting trends and anointing new designers. She has encouraged fashion houses like Christian Dior to hire younger, fresher designers – such as John Galliano. Her influence extends beyond fashion. It was she who persuaded Donald Trump to allow cash-strapped Marc Jacobs to use the Plaza Hotel for a show. But in 2006 it was Wintour who persuaded Brooks Brothers to hire the relatively unknown Thom Browne.