What Will Happen After Anna Wintour Leaves Vogue?
Will fashion and Condé Nast collapse in her absence? I'm skeptical.
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A common misconception about Anna Wintour is that she is Vogue’s longest serving editor-in-chief. That distinction actually goes to Edna Woolman Chase, who retired as editor-in-chief in 1952, after holding the job for 38 years (through both World Wars). This summer, at age 72, Anna will reach her thirty-fourth anniversary as editor-in-chief, having assumed the position in 1988. There has been no indication that she plans to leave her job imminently. Yet many in the industry seem to agree that she has stayed too long.
Part of the reason her resiliency seems to rankle people is because of what has happened to the publishing industry over the course of those 34 years. At Vogue parent company Condé Nast, it went from being a glorious business where power was plentiful (at the very top, anyway), and budgets perhaps even more so. There weren’t mega digital platforms like Google and Meta to siphon ad dollars and attention away from lucrative print titles like Vogue. There wasn’t a great way for consumers to keep up with fashion without Vogue or competing magazines, either.
Now, of course, that’s all changed. With Vogue diminishing in both utility and perhaps also monetary value, what will be left for Anna’s successor? As I illustrate in my book ANNA: The Biography, her power has grown over the course of her tenure at Vogue, despite legacy publishing’s decline. She influences not only the fashion industry, but also the arts, entertainment, and politics, to name a few others. This influence is the result of savvy networking and corporate politicking conducted over the course of many years. It’s hard to imagine that Anna’s successor will step into the role with these advantages, which she has seemingly methodically accrued over the course of nearly half her life. Therefore, it’s easy to view the next editor-in-chief of Vogue as inheriting not exactly a throne, as Anna did in 1988, but something more like an ottoman with rickety legs. I suspect this is one reason many people find it so bothersome that she has stayed so long — the worry that the next person might never get the chance to become what Anna has. But I’m not so sure that will bear out.
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