In a surprise move that has left the fashion world wide-eyed, Anna Wintour –editor-in-chief of US Vogue and artistic director of Condé Nast, immortalised by Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada and subject of seminal fashion documentary The September Issue – has collaborated with Nike on an exclusive range of Air Jordans.
That this is the first product she has chosen to officially endorse – quite literally, by allowing her signature ‘AWOK’ to appear on the soles – is perhaps not that surprising, given the luxury sneaker revolution. The acronym stands for ‘Anna Wintour OK’, which she uses to sign off pages of Vogue before they go to print. She also made an accompanying video that shows her at her desk (in said footwear) shooting hoops with a small basketball every time she approves a page.
What is surprising is the timing of the collaboration. The first batch of sneakers in red or white leather dropped last weekend, the second batch, in tweed, recalling her Chanel power jackets, go on sale 7 September – long after the global obsession with football and final whistle was blown at the World Cup. Besides, she’s a famous tennis devotee, not a football fan. All of which has got the fashion world surmising that something big, no, monumental, is about to happen.
Could it really be that Anna Wintour – the most powerful woman in fashion since she became editor-in-chief in 1988 – is set to leave Vogue? ‘We emphatically deny these rumours,’ a Condé Nast spokesperson told the New York Post’s Page Six back in April, when it stated that ‘fashion’s ultimate power broker’ would be stepping aside after closing Vogue’s all-important September issue’ – which is the next issue on newsstands, due out 18 August. A week later, The New York Times’ fashion editor, Vanessa Friedman, wrote a piece, ‘Imagining a world after Anna’, and received an email from Condé Nast’s CEO, stating, ‘There is no truth to the rumours of Anna’s departure.’ (Grazia received a similar reply last week.)
Why, you may be thinking, does it matter whether she stays or goes – outside of the rarefied bubble of haute-oxygenated fashion, who cares?
Where to start... Anna Wintour’s departure – and it will happen at some point – represents the most monumental shift in power and influence the fashion world has yet to see. Aged 68, Anna is still at the top of her game, the equivalent of Apple’s Steve Jobs, or Harry Potter’s JK Rowling. As respected as she is feared, this is the woman behind the industry’s biggest shifts in gear. She was the driving force behind the now-ubiquitous celebrity cover (and not just
Hollywood glamour, but Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, too). She helped to create the mega-designer by handpicking talent for the top jobs at the mightiest brands (John Galliano at Christian Dior, Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton and many more) while also engineering the resurrection of John Galliano (after his anti-Semitic rant and breakdown) into his current job at
Maison Margiela. She has also come out in support of Marchesa’s Georgina Chapman, post Weinstein scandal. She has forged together philanthropy, politics, celebrity, art and fashion, not just within the pages of Vogue, but culminating in one of the global fashion events of the year, the Met Ball.And she’s a dame. Indeed, only she could sit beside the Queen at HM’s first fashion show at LFW last February – her sunglasses, always a symbol of her inscrutability, controversially remained in place.
Without Anna, the power broker behind the scenes (while always front and centre), will chaos ensue? Anarchy? You can certainly forget an orderly queue when it comes to the smash and grab for power in the vacuum left in her wake. But who, then, will run the show? Over the years, a few names have surfaced: Carine Roitfeld, former editor of French Vogue; Natalie Massenet, founder of Net-A-Porter, who transformed the face of luxury fashion and our designer buying habits with it.
However, the name being (deafeningly) whispered is that of Edward Enninful, who took the helm at British Vogue just 16 months ago – seen by many as his apprenticeship for the big job at US Vogue once Anna steps aside. Condé Nast UK denied rumours last week, but the first black, male, gay editor of a monthly women’s magazine certainly feels like the most natural fit in an age of Trump, Brexit, #MeToo and #TimesUp. His talent for creating hard-hitting, zeitgeisty visuals are matched by his personal accessibility in a world chock-full of elitism. From humble beginnings to the pinnacle of magazine editorship is a true-life story that will inspire and shape the dreams of a generation.
He is human where, perhaps, Anna is perceived not to be. His was the flagship appointment for a new era in fashion, the timing of which was perfect– coinciding with an industry ready to take a hard look at itself in the mirror. His influence has certainly helped shape conversations that reverberate with the words ‘inclusivity’ and ‘diversity’, now at the forefront of most magazines’ fashion editorials and, increasingly, fashion houses’ ad campaigns. Genuine collaborations with friends – who happen to be Naomi, Kate, the Beckhams, Adwoa, Gigi, Bella and Oprah (who stars on his latest cover), plus the cream of creative talent – have cast him in the role of celebrity-editor-in-chief. Meaning if he wasn’t a celebrity before, he certainly is now – and could leverage the kind of cover deals with agents to retain US Vogue’s status. Anyone who’s ridden into a fashion show or event on his coat-tails will have felt the paparazzi heat he draws.
Again, this is all speculative – and how fashion loves to gossip – but one thing is for sure: a fashion world without Anna Wintour will look very different. As to how, watch this space.