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Has Anna Wintour's era come to an end?

Amidst recent protests, for one of the most powerful figures in fashion it might be time to step down

Has Anna Wintour's era come to an end?  Amidst recent protests, for one of the most powerful figures in fashion it might be time to step down

For the past 2-3 decades, everyone in, and many outside of the fashion industry have assimilated the name Anna Wintour with the dawn of modern day fashion. As artistic director of Condé Nast and Editor-in-chief for the past 32 years of American Vogue - the magazine which has been considered the world’s most powerful fashion publication, she has long been seen as the mother of fashion and one of the main figures who has helped shape the industry into what it is today. For pop culture she has also played an iconic role which we’ve witnessed with the Devil Wears Prada which was based on her, as well as the countless numbers of rap and hip hop songs that have mentioned her. She has made her entire career through mastering the method of anticipating and responding appropriately to cultural trends, changing the way in which trends are produced and the shift in how we view celebrity culture.

However for the past few months, one of the main debates within the industry has been whether Wintour has outlived her relevance as head of the magazine amidst the changing times.Throughout the past few years there has always been whispered gossip in regards to the Dame’s retirement, but the main point of pressure and questioning of her significance came earlier this year during the Black Lives Matter movement. While the streets all across the country were filled with protests in solidarity with the fight against racism, many were also looking inwards at their own institutions and publicly exposing the racism they had witnessed in their own workplaces, and one of the giant companies being exposed was Condé Nast.

The impact of the criticism of the company’s racially exclusive hiring practices led to the resignation of some of the key editors of other magazines like food publication Bon Appetit which was eventually followed by a storm of twitter users, some of whom were former Vogue employees discussing their experiences of the racially hostile environment created by Wintour throughout the years at the Vogue Headquarters. In response , she did not issue a resignation but instead issued an apology saying: 

“I want to say plainly that I know Vogue has not found enough ways to elevate and give space to Black editors, writers, photographers, designers and other creators. We have made mistakes too, publishing images or stories that have been hurtful or intolerant. I take full responsibility for those mistakes.”

However in a recent editorial by the NY Times, the question was posed, has this apology come too late, is the age of Wintour’s reign over ? Upon her entry at American Vogue in 1989, one of her first important moves was putting a black model — Naomi Campbell, on her first September issue for the magazine, a decision that was progressive during its time in the world of fashion. But throughout the past decade, Wintour has made decisions to publish content that has been deemed racially insensitive on several occasions which is what raises questions.

In 2008 she published the famous Lebron James cover which was reminiscent of racist King Kong imagery; in 2017 the magazine came under fire for cultural appropriation after publishing an issue with Karlie Kloss in a geisha outfit. These were only a few of the many occasions in which the magazine has had to issue apologies for being racially and culturally insensitive within the past few years — which many from the company claim is as a result of having a workplace that has hired mainly a certain type of employee “someone who is thin and white, typically from a wealthy family and educated at elite schools” according to the NY Times

It is no doubt that the industry is difficult to work in, and this has been abundantly clear in the way Wintour has been portrayed and carried herself. However the questions being raised is not in regards to her competency or rigour as she has proven herself to be one of the key figures of the industry, but what many are now asking is if she now has what it takes to keep up with the current changing times where people are demanding for magazines and fashion in general to keep up with the politically correct times, especially in the case of America where things seem to be changing for the worst. Vogue’s parent company Conde Nast has recently issued a statement assuring that they are in the process of working on things, “Anna and Vogue and all the leaders at our brands have made concerted efforts to build inclusion into all we do every day” but many within and outside of the fashion community remain divided in opinion, some championing for fresh blood at the magazine, while others defend her legacy.