It was only a year ago that the fashion world was preparing for Anna Wintour to officially announce her retirement after some documents surfaced on the interwebs that detailed potential change in leadership at Vogue. After refusing to respond to the endless rumors, now former Condé Nast CEO Bob Sauerberg released a statement describing Wintour’s relationship to the Condé empire as “indefinite,” which in turn inspired an excessive amount of think pieces speculating as to what exactly is going on inside the walls of fashion’s greatest magazine. All bias aside, here’s my question: What groundbreaking act has Wintour as a creative leader executed in the past decade that is pushing the print magazine industry into the future?
Looking through the insane list of accomplishments, initiatives and philanthropic moments credited to Wintour, the one the masses are likely most familiar with is the Met Gala, the annual fundraiser benefiting the museum’s prestigious fashion institute (named after Wintour herself, of course). Other than that, her name sits atop Vogue’s masthead and she herself sits front row at the fashion shows she so chooses to make herself available to attend.
But in a time when print is being overshadowed by all things digital and is having to prove its value on the regular, is a leader who is playing by the rules she always has going to make any difference? Showing no intention to groom a successor, Wintour has made it quite clear that the powerful position she has carved out for herself won’t be filled by anyone else anytime soon.
In the past year, there’s been an insane amount of turnover in leadership across cultural institutions in large part because transparency has become the new status quo. These days, the most crucial factors in the survival of any modern platform are its values and its reach. Like many other art forms, the world of fashion is finally prioritizing accessibility and sustainability more than ever before.
Wintour has made some modest attempts to reshape her image, appearing more frequently in content that appears on Vogue’s digital platforms and being more open to candid comment here or there. But in my opinion, that’s simply not enough to satisfy the movers and shakers who are ready to inherit the industry. The industry that, yes, Wintour has undoubtedly championed more selflessly and tirelessly than any other figure in recent history — indeed, she’s a living icon. But what happens to the worth of an icon’s legacy when they refuse to take action to propel their craft into the future? I guess that is up to Ms. Wintour to decide.