The McKinsey of Fashion – Anna Wintour and Her Legacy

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McKinsey of Fashion
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WSJ did a cover story on the legend, Anna Wintour. I’m pretty sure, that under “editrix” in the fashion dictionary, her name is boldly spelt out. She sits atop a complex pyramid of power that intersperses buyers, designers, writers, models, photographers, PR peeps, stylists, Hollywood stars, investors, businessmen/women and of course, lesser editors. Anna controls the fashion world from behind her omnipresent dark glasses.

While I have had my reservations about the way American Vogue has turned out, there’s absolutely no denying the influence Anna wields over the people who matter. To all of you who haven’t seen the BBC documentary “The Secret World of Haute Couture”, I encourage you to check it out. Watching it now, you may feel it’s a little outdated as couture is no longer one dimensionally as exclusive. With the coming of Web 2.0, bloggers, the expansion of celebrity culture, livestreaming, social media, etc. it’s become more accessible. But the documentary clearly shows the sharp contrast in how the latest fashion trends has evolved; partly due to Anna.

Meryl Streep may play Anna in the cult hit movie, Devil Wears Prada as a shallow, single minded sadist but it’s often been said that all this is even so much as mentioned because she’s a woman. If she were a man, nobody would look at anything except for how good she is at her job (and maybe if she has any sexual harassment cases pending- we’re looking at you Terry Richardson). She was the first person to realize that celebrities sell- more than models that only a handful of fashion industry insiders and fans know of. She saw winning potential and went with it. She’s put everybody from Sienna Miller to LeBron James on the cover of her issues, increasing the circulation by millions!

Her inner circle encompasses everyone in Hollywood to lots in Washington. “When I wasn’t doing so well, Anna would throw a party and sit me next to B Arnault” says Harry Weinstein. He returned the favor by helping her throw the Billy Joel/Bruce Springsteen benefit concert for then- Senator and now President Obama. She helped Baz Luhrmann make “Moulin Rouge” the iconic success it is today with help from her powerful allies, Weinstein and Donald Trump. Carey Mulligan is loved by her and is consequently starring in Luhrmann’s next venture, The Great Gatsby.

In early 2009, amidst the shattering economic recession, she took a little field trip to mayor Bloomberg’s office and proposed the idea of a one-shot, late night shopping party, an idea partly inspired by Paris’ “nuits blanches”. She called up Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Saks, smaller, indie stores like Opening Ceremony and said “I’ll send you Sienna! I’ll send you Justin Timberlake”. Her celebrity manpower is massive and contributes to a significant amount of her power.

Of course, this came to be known as Fashion’s Night Out and was held universally, including in India. Overall foot traffic in NYC grow about 50% in stores, Macy’s sales which had been down 4-5% increased in double digits post the night. FNO 2010 spanned over 1000 NYC stores, 100 American cities and 16 countries around the world. And no one can forget the Met Gala. Once a little benefit for society hostesses and their rich ivestor-type husbands, it’s now the event of the year. When she took over the committee in 1995, it catered to largely Park Avenue-types and garnered around $900,000 a year. Anna brought in the hugest, shiniest names in Hollywood, television, Internet, politics, literature, theater, business, sports (Roger Federer is a dear friend) and turned it into NYC’s air kiss to the world. Last year, the gala brought in $9 million. Amid the recession, mind you. In all, she’s raised about $75 million for the museum via the Costume Insitute Gala.

She’s founded numerous designers, from John Galliano, Marc Jacobs to Michael Kors- gave them their footing commercially.

She is, indeed, “The McKinsey of fashion”.

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