In case you haven’t already heard, there’s big news out of 4 Times Square this morning. Condé Nast has announced that, in addition to running the show at Vogue as she’s done for nearly 25 years, Anna Wintour will be taking on the role as artistic director at the company. Here’s why we think this was a brilliant bit of decision making on the part of the powerhouse publishing brass.
For one thing, according to a joint interview the New York Times conducted yesterday with Wintour and Condé chief executive Charles H. Townsend, the promotion was a way to make sure the editor didn’t part ways with Vogue. Townsend insinuated that Wintour may otherwise have left the title for greener pastures, telling writer Eric Wilson that he “would go to great distances to avoid losing Anna, particularly in the prime of her career.” And while we give Vogue plenty of flack for stale celebrity covers and studio shoots, there’s no one else in the industry with the kind of influence and eye that Anna has.
It’s no secret that the woman already has her hands in nearly every high profile industry around — sports, food, politics, media, entertainment, you name it — and if there’s one thing that the persistent ambassadorship rumors proved, it’s that Wintour’s clout extends way beyond the fashion world. According to the Times, her new role will entail taking on some of the duties once accorded to S.I. Newhouse Jr., the company’s 85-year-old chairman who has scaled-back his involvement as of late, including “assuming broader creative duties throughout the company, and having a say in its expanding portfolio of platforms, including the recent development of an entertainment division.”
Wintour describes the position as “almost like being a one-person consulting firm” for the company’s other titles, including Allure, Vanity Fair, Architectural Digest, and the New Yorker, and she admits that this is something she already does plenty of as editor in chief of Vogue. Much of this will be bringing in top talent, a task we are certain Anna is more than qualified to perform. After all, she has been instrumental in establishing and nurturing the careers of countless designers, from Marc Jacobs to the Proenza Schouler boys, in part through the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund she spearheaded in 2003, as well as supporting top editors, writers, photographers, and many more.
As the New Yorker’s David Remnick puts it, “I don’t expect Anna to be picking the cartoons or directing our war coverage. But I have asked her advice numerous times and always been grateful for it. She’s a great editor. Period.” Vogue’s coverage is, naturally, through a fashion lens, but the skill set required is that of the head of a major brand.
Finally, as Hearst, Condé’s biggest competitor expands ever more rapidly, this is one way for Condé to reassert itself as the leader in prestige publishing and leverage Wintour’s unparalleled influence (and, let’s not forget, fundraising skills) across its titles.
And, perhaps best of all, those ambassador rumors can finally be laid to rest.