anna wintour - the fairy godmother of fashion

If you’ve ever wondered what an acceptance speech by Anna Wintour would sound like, it turns out that moment is going to happen today as Wintour will be honoured with the Outstanding Achievement Award at the British Fashion Awards tonight, cueing what...

by Anders Christian Madsen
Dec 1 2014, 9:50am

As the press release reminded us, Wintour is an OBE - Order of the British Empire - which is basically the last step on the way to a knighthood: the Queen's way of saying 'outstanding achievement'. Perhaps it won't be long before Wintour can put 'Dame Anna' on the American Vogue masthead? It is, of course, her title on that masthead, Editor-in-Chief, which has made Wintour the absolute most powerful person in fashion. And while her vision and understanding of the times has kept American Vogue on top of its game since she joined in her current position in 1988, the British Fashion Council are honouring Wintour for a number of other reasons, too.

A philanthropist in her own right, Wintour is a fierce fundraiser. She developed the CFDA/Vogue initiative, which has raised over $20 million dollars for AIDS research through fashion events such as the annual Met Ball, which was also an Anna invention, and a reflection of her recognition of the power of celebrity, which has been a pillar of her success at Vogue. Wintour was the first editor to put celebrities on her covers, using their influence to promote and communicate fashion to a broader market, even if was considered tawdry at first.

Likewise, Wintour was a pioneer in breaking down the high and low ends of fashion, fearlessly mixing haute couture, ready-to-wear and other forms of casualwear on the pages of Vogue. Her first cover famously featured Michaela Bercu in a Christian Lacroix jacket and Guess jeans. "I had just looked at that picture and sensed the winds of change," she once noted. InThe September Issue - the documentary that would forever immortalise Wintour in the world book of legends and turn her into a global superstar - the world got a glimpse into Wintour's stern editing skills and the unsentimental character it takes to run a business like Vogue.

As a female boss, Wintour has often been the victim of the media's fondness for portraying globally powerful women as cold and evil, much like it's always been the case for people like Madonna, Hillary Clinton, and Martha Stewart. "I don't think of myself as intimidating, and I assure you the people who work with me on a day-to-day basis don't think that either," she once said. "If one comes across sometimes as being cold or brusque, it's simply because I'm striving for the best." When it comes to the countless young designers, who have been nurtured and made millionaires by Wintour, however, the characterisation is a different thing altogether.

"Anna Wintour is awe-inspiring; her dedication and passion to the fashion industry, her work ethic, and her unwavering support of young talent are truly unique," Christopher Kane wrote in the BFC's press release. "I owe so much to Anna for believing in me since the very beginning; without her loyal support and friendship over the past ten years I would not be where I am today." Because the thing about Wintour - and the reason her achievements are literally outstanding - is that she's always done more than she needed to do. Wintour hasn't just approached her a career as magazine editor. She's approached it as a kind of fairy godmother for the entire fashion industry and in many ways the world that surrounds it.


Text Anders Christian Madsen
Photography Anna Bauer
[The Winter Warm Up Issue, no. 316, Winter 2013] 

Anna Wintour
anders christian madsen
british fashion council
outstanding achievement award