Anna Wintour had a good reason for wearing her big black sunglasses onstage with Tina Brown: eye surgery.
“I’m actually legally blind today,” the longtime Vogue editor (joking she’s had the title “for a hundred years”) and artistic director of Condé Nast told Brown, who managed to back into an answer for why she was wearing them by bringing up her fashion preference of a “uniform.” Wintour said she had eye surgery just this week, but didn’t explain any further, during her one-on-one with Brown at her Women in the World conference.
This is about how the talk went between the editors — Brown poking a bit and Wintour saying just enough to satisfy. But Brown, whose come-up in London media and move over to Condé Nast paralleled Wintour’s own, did manage to get Wintour to open up, if only a bit.
As Wintour often talks about her longtime editor father Charles Wintour and his influence on her career, Brown asked about Wintour’s mother. Wintour said her mother actually started out in media, a film critic, before having children and later worked on social issues in England, like teenage motherhood and helping children in foster care. She admitted both parents were “a deep inspiration to me,” although she quickly went back to her speaking of her father.
Another inspiration to her was the late Karl Lagerfeld. Wintour was in London when news of the prolific designer’s death came out and it wasn’t until the following day, waiting for a plane to Milan for a conference, that the loss hit her.
“I was in an airport reading all of the papers, the obituaries, sitting next to a very unfashionable man, in a checkered shirt, you know, and I just started to bawl,” Wintour recalled. “[The man] just started silently handing me kerchiefs. I said, ‘Thank you for being so kind’ and he said ‘Madam, the world has lost a great figure.’ Even he felt the loss. Karl was just this force.”
Brown also asked directly about Wintour’s thoughts on Condé’s just-named global chief executive officer Roger Lynch. While he’s yet to actually start the job, Wintour said he came in to the offices last week to shake some hands, and said “he seems like a very dynamic person, charismatic and eager to learn.”
“He’s going to go on a listening tour, to Russia and China and everywhere we have offices and obviously he’ll come back with a strategy,” she added. “But he was very impressive and talked a lot about opportunity and learning from mistakes and we’re all very excited.”
That was that. Although Wintour’s own style of leadership, which Brown characterized as “direct” and “decisive” also came up. Wintour said she feels “the most important thing is to have clarity” when you’re in a position of power. “People want to know where they stand. When people waffle or are indecisive, it’s incredibly frustrating.”
But the conversation wasn’t all serious. Wintour talked of her own colorful but conservative style, exemplified in her choice of a long-sleeved, full-length printed dress with boots and a big necklace, saying she’s actually been rethinking her look.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about suits lately — thank you Duchess of Sussex.”
As a recently named Dame, Wintour had her own royal moment with Queen Elizabeth in 2017 and then another about a year ago, when the Queen made a surprise appearance at a Richard Quinn fashion show, and was seated next to Wintour. Photos of the two of them talking and laughing (unusual looks for both women) quickly made the rounds. So what was so funny?
Wintour, with maybe just a hint of exasperation at the common ground, revealed: “She and I discussed how long we’ve both been in our jobs.”
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