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Anna Wintour on Fashion and Success

The name Anna Wintour is synonymous with all things fashion, and for good reason. The British-born journalist — well known for her bob haircut, oversize sunglasses, and intimidating stare — has done a whole lot for the fashion industry over the past few decades. She elevated Vogue magazine to become the standard bearer for fashion journalism, bolstered the careers of countless models and designers, and was named a dame by the late Queen Elizabeth II in 2017 for her contributions to fashion and journalism.

When Wintour first moved to New York City in 1975, she worked as a junior fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar and was known for pushing boundaries with innovative photo shoots. (In fact, her edginess got her fired from the magazine after less than a year.) Since then, her sharp editorial eye and smart business sense has landed her roles at the helm of New York magazine, House & Garden, and ultimately Vogue, first as creative director and then as editor-in-chief and global chief content officer for Condé Nast. She made quite the name for herself as she navigated through NYC’s bustling fashion and media scenes, and was even given the nickname “Nuclear Wintour” for her reputation as a demanding, controlling boss.

Wintour’s particular brand of cool remove was notoriously captured in the 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada, based on Lauren Weisberger’s 2003 novel by the same name. In the film, Meryl Streep plays an icy magazine editor named Miranda Priestly, largely believed to be a thinly veiled portrayal of Wintour. Instead of alienating the public, however, the film helped catapult Wintour’s star into the realm of cultural icon, elevating her nonplussed demeanor to the stuff of legend: Even at fashion weeks today, Wintour can be seen sitting front row alongside some of the biggest names in the industry and Hollywood.

The Vogue editor’s legacy, however, goes well beyond her presence at fashion’s biggest events. She has helped launch the careers of such famed designers as Thom Browne and John Galliano, raised millions for AIDS research and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (she has co-chaired the star-studded Met Gala since 1995), and turned the fashion magazine into a place where high-end aesthetics and regular retail aspirations can meet. Here, we’ve rounded up 15 of Wintour’s most insightful, memorable quotes — words that have helped cement her place as one of the most influential figures in the ever-evolving world of fashion.

The best way to make a dream come true is to wake up.

If you're an overnight sensation, you can be yesterday's news in no time. Whereas building something slowly and carefully that has value and quality, that's what's going to have legs.

It’s very important to take risks. I think that research is very important, but in the end you have to work from your instinct and feeling and take those risks and be fearless.

People respond well to those that are sure of what they want. What people hate most is indecision. Even if I'm completely unsure, I'll pretend I know exactly what I'm talking about and make a decision.

If you can't be better than your competition, just dress better.

One doesn’t want fashion to look ridiculous, silly, or out of step with the times — but you do want designers that make you think, that make you look at fashion differently. That’s how fashion changes. If it doesn’t change, it’s not looking forward. And that’s important to me.

I read in “The New York Times” this week that I'm an ice queen, I'm the sun king, I'm an alien fleeing from District 8 and I'm a dominatrix. So I reckon that makes me lukewarm royalty with a whip from outer space.

If one comes across sometimes as being cold or brusque, it's simply because I'm striving for the best.

Just be true to yourself, and listen as much as one is able to to other people whose opinions you respect and look up to but in the end it has to come from you. You can’t really worry too much by looking to the left and the right about what the competition is doing or what other people in your field are doing. It has to be a true vision.

Fashion is ceaselessly fascinating because it is an expression of self.

I'm much more of a believer in finding a great team of people and trusting them to follow their instincts. They work better when they feel they have freedom and they are trusted.

I think everyone should get sacked at least once. It was definitely a good thing for what it taught me.

You either know fashion, or you don’t.

If you look at any great fashion photograph out of context, it will tell you just as much about what's going on in the world as a headline in "The New York Times."

Fashion's not about looking back. It's always about looking forward.

Photo credit: London Entertainment/ Alamy Stock Photo

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About the Author
Joyce Chen
Joyce Chen is a writer, editor, and community builder based in Seattle, Washington.
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