There’s been no shortage of interest in the sweeping changes Anna Wintour has made since she was named artistic director of Conde Nast six months ago, a role she holds in addition to her positions as editor in chief of Vogue and editorial director of Teen Vogue.
At WWD‘s apparel conference in Manhattan Tuesday, Wintour took the stage with Leslie Moonves, president and CEO of CBS, to discuss her new-ish job and how she’s extending Vogue‘s “power and authority” beyond the magazine itself.
According to Wintour, it was Karl Lagerfeld — specifically, a talk Lagerfeld gave a year ago about his role as creative director of several fashion houses, including Chanel — that gave Conde Nast CEO Charles Townsend the idea of promoting Wintour to her current role overseeing several other titles. To date, neither Conde nor Wintour have ever publicly detailed what her role is, though she has made some notable personnel changes — firing and installing new chief editors at Lucky and Traveler — and had influence over the cover choices for those magazines. (She’s said to have far less influence at titles where more powerful editors are installed, such as Vanity Fair and The New Yorker.)
During the Q&A, Wintour didn’t elaborate further on her Artistic Director position, but did take pains to emphasize that she’s not a micromanager. “I think people work better when they have freedom and are trusted,” she said. “Nothing gives me more pleasure than if a great shoot or great article comes in that has nothing to do with what we originally discussed, but is so much better… [In my] new role, the most important thing I do is protect and discuss [with] editors. It is the editors’ vision that creates a great magazine.”
Moonves asked Wintour what has made her so successful. Wintour credited her father, the former editor in chief of the London Evening Standard, for cultivating her decisiveness. “I grew up watching him lead a team of journalists, and being a very decisive and I think fearless editor,” she said. “I think through that example I realized possibly that what people working for [an editor] hate most is indecision. Even if I’m completely unsure, I will pretend to know exactly what I’m talking about and will make a decision.”
And what of Vogue‘s future? For Wintour, that’s creating content across more channels — namely, digital — and extending Vogue‘s influence through various other initiatives. “So now what we’re all doing is creating more content that is specific for different channels,” she explained. “I think what I’ve learned, what we’ve all learned, is that if you do similar content for the magazine and the website, it’s going to be much less successful [because] you’re reaching a different reader [on each platform]… The good news is that you are reaching far more readers through all these different channels.”
Wintour emphasized that print is still the “most important, profitable part of [Vogue's] business,” but that to be a true powerhouse, Vogue must do more than produce a monthly magazine. What Vogue has developed is “clarity, authority [and] a point of view” and extended that to “extracurricular” programs like Vogue‘s Fashion Fund, which “feed into the power and authority of Vogue,” she said.
“Anyone who says they have all the answers I don’t believe,” said Wintour. “I think we’re all learning as we go.”