'IT'S THE GOLDEN AGE OF COMMUNICATION'
Burberry CEO Christopher Bailey introduces a talk by Condé Nast artistic director Anna Wintour, today in the Lumière theatre. She spoke exclusively to Lions Daily News editor Julian Newby
The image of Anna Wintour is as instantly recogniseable as the cover of Vogue, Condé Naste’s most-prized title. And one of the things brands and marketers in Cannes will want to hear from her today is how.
How has a brand that has been in the hands of Condé Nast since 1892 survived two world wars,
and changes in society so radical that the world today bears absolutely no resemblance to the world
in which Vogue was born.
“I don’t have a secret. I was given some very, very good advice by a gentleman called Ralph Lauren, many years ago when I started working at Vogue,” Wintour said. “ I asked him what his secret was and he said,
‘Well the point is, you don’t want to be too hot or too cold. You want to be part of the conversation, part of
the culture like Coca-Cola and Nike.’ And that has always stood out in my mind as exceptionally good advice. If you’re chasing the latest trend too fast, or falling to far behind, there’s a risk of no longer being what you’ve inherited. So it’s finding that balance.” Far from diluting the brand, Wintour believes that what today’s multiplatform world has to offer can strengthen the message.
“It’s actually a fantastic time now because I think that we have so many opportunities to talk to one’s audience through so many different media, which certainly did not exist when
I first came to vogue 100 years ago [sic]. I feel that gives you all these different voices and ways to reach people – print, books, mobile, events like this one – it’s the golden age of communication.”
But each platform has its own language. “And I think the secret is to find the teams, people to work with you, who understand the different voices.” Yet in spite of all the different voices, Vogue and Condé Nast’s other titles remain strong in print. And that, Wintour said, is down to quality. “What we find when we talk to a celebrity or a writer or whoever it may be, because online and digital is so instantaneous you can trend, or whatever, but then you’re forgotten instantly. What I feel is that we do have such high standards and because we work with the best photographers and the best writers and editors in the world, being in Vogue gives our subjects a stamp of authority. It legitimises who or what they are, and what their project may be. It feels more lasting, more iconic.”
And she knows many of them personally.
“I’m in a very fortunate position to have had this particular job for a very long time so I know most of the players well and I think we all have great respect for each other and what we do and what we stand for. Christopher (Bailey) and I, we talk all the time; Karl Largerfeld and I talk all the time; I’m in conversation with CEOs, owners of companies and designers,” she said. “Its very, very important that we all communicate and that we are honest with each other.”
Steeped in a world of fashion so dominated by celebrities, Wintour’s charity work sometimes misses the headlines. She has raised millions for the fight against AIDS, for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's costume department and, with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), she helped create the Vogue/CFDA Fashion Fund to encourage and support up-and-coming designers – after the terror attacks of 9/11 brought a halt to New York Fashion Week.
“The Fashion Fund is the initiative I’ve worked on that I am most close to and emotionally invested in, because it was such a desperate time,” she said. “It was right bang in the middle of Fashion Week and one was wondering what would be respectful, how to keep businesses going, and just to be able to gather everybody together as a community. So we said, ‘OK let’s do a show, let’s not be cowed-down, let’s get on with everything we need to do.’ And out of that very simple idea grew the Fashion Fund, based on seeing how extraordinarily hand-to-mouth those young designer businesses were. And I’m thrilled that we now have Fashion Funds in France and China and England and I think people do understand that to help and support these young people when they’re just starting out is really of great use to them. And it’s also a investment in a community that we all believe in and work in.”