Powerful Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour is expanding her role at Condé Nast. Today, the publisher announced that Wintour—who is also the editorial director of Teen Vogue—was named artistic director of Condé Nast. In the newly created role, Wintour will be responsible for "curating and cultivating the creative vision" for the company, according to a statement.
In an interview with The New York Times, Condé Nast CEO Chuck Townsend said that Wintour would be assuming some of the responsibilities left open by Si Newhouse, the 85-year-old chairman of Condé Nast parent Advance Publications, when he scaled back his role, including oversight of Condé Nast's editorial division, last fall. "Si Newhouse leaves a void, inevitably," Townsend told the Times. "Anna, without even having to think twice about it, is the most qualified person to pick up that torch and carry it into the future."
Townsend added that the role of artistic director had been created, in part, to keep Wintour at Condé Nast, telling the Times that he "would go to great distances to avoid losing Anna, particularly in the prime of her career." Wintour had been rumored last year to be a possible Obama administration appointee to the U.K. ambassadorship, but she maintained that she had no plans outside of Condé Nast.
I find Wintour to be truly fascinating. While everyone is discussing the death of publishing as we know it she secures herself an even bigger position of leadership at Condé Nast. At this moment it's not clear what this new position really means for publications like Wired, Epicurious or The New Yorker and I can not help but find myself very curious to see how her obvious influence will extend beyond the world of fashion.
In conversations I often compare Wintour to Steve Jobs. Most of us were willing to dismiss his most demanding character traits while acknowledging that he was a visionary genius, and yet similar behavior and success from Wintour results in her being branded a Prada-wearing devil.
I gained a better understanding of who Wintour is from a film, not that one, the other one. The R.J. Cutler directed documentary The September Issue (available for streaming in the usual places.) Cutler spent eight months following Wintour and filming over three hundred hours of footage.
While making The September Issue, I observed Anna Wintour day-in and day-out as she single-handedly commanded the $300-billion global fashion industry. In a business where last week's fashion shows are already old news, she has been at the top of her field (and the top of her game) for two decades and counting. Shortly after we began filming, I observed to a friend who asked what it was like to watch Anna work, "Well, you can make a film in Hollywood without Steven Spielberg's blessing, and you can publish software in Silicon Valley without Bill Gates' blessing, but it's pretty clear to me that you can't succeed in the fashion industry without Anna Wintour's blessing."
Cutler even learned four lessons in management by watching Wintour work.
Another reason to watch the documentary is to discover Grace Coddington. Every influential public figure always has a behind-the-scenes person who is equally, if quietly, influential to the work.
Watch the above trailer for the documentary. At around the 2:00 mark there is a moment that resonated with me when I watched the film and that I confess I've stolen. In many meetings over the past few years I've been known to paraphrase her and demand "where is the quality?, where is the elegance?, where is the follow through? Come on, elevate it."
If God is in the details, so is the Devil and she is an Artistic Director.