68 Minutes With Anna Wintour

Photo: Ray Tamarra/Getty Images

Eight a.m. on a Monday, and Anna Wintour is wearing an A-line Oscar de la Renta skirt made up of overlapping Kelly-green strips of ribbon, a ribbed white T-shirt, and a tiny green Marni cardigan with purple trim. The logo on the extremely grande Starbucks cup she’s gulping from matches the whole thing perfectly—an accident, obviously, but then everything is so precise it’s hard not to give her credit. Her hair is in its typical formation, her sunglasses are on, and a black sedan is idling outside her Greenwich Village townhouse.

Time, then, for a trip to Queens, to help save global fashion.

“During the couture shows in February there was a lot of discussion about the lack of traffic in the stores,” Wintour says. “A lot of people were complaining, but people weren’t really doing anything about it.”

So Wintour, who doesn’t do much actual shopping herself—“I get a few key pieces each season and wear them a lot”—hatched a plan. She assembled the editors-in-chief of the international editions of Vogue and some Condé Nast execs, and decided that Thursday, September 10, would be Fashion’s Night Out: Stores worldwide would stay open late and perhaps even invite famous people and serve cocktails, and the retail world would get a nice, much-needed booster shot.

Back in New York, Wintour teamed up with Diane Von Furstenberg, president of the CFDA; together they visited Mayor Bloomberg, who liked the idea but was anxious that the occasion not smack of elitism.

“That’s,” Wintour says in a singsong, “why we’re going to Queens.” She will kick the night off at the Macy’s in Elmhurst, accompanied by Michael Kors and the singing, dancing cast of Hair. So she’s making this early-morning visit to make sure everything there will be as Vogue as possible on the big evening. “I’m not going to be spending the whole night in Queens,” she adds—her plan on the 10th is to visit a few of the 800 or so stores that are staying open till 11 p.m. “And I do plan to shop.”

Wintour’s been out in public quite a bit lately—The September Issue, a documentary by R. J. Cutler about the magazine, just premiered, and Wintour promoted it by, among other things, going on Late Show With David Letterman. “When we originally agreed to the documentary, we didn’t foresee this timing,” she says. “I had no idea R.J. would take such a long time to edit the film. It’s not some master plan to suddenly be so visible. Supporting the industry is my primary objective, and anything I’m doing is to help the retailers through what for all of us is a very difficult time.”

Wintour does not abide moping. Complaining about change in the industry is, she thinks, “like talking about that house you could’ve bought for nothing on the beach in Southhampton. Forget it. It’s gone.

“The amazing golden years that everyone in the industry was enjoying were fantastic from a business point of view but also maybe a little unseemly. Every celebrity thought she could be a designer, and how many handbags? How many shoes? How much of a thing does everyone really need?”

The car pulls up to Macy’s, where assorted members of her staff—publicists, special-events specialists, a market editor, and a pretty assistant in a pair of four-inch platform shoes—are waiting out front with a publicist from Michael Kors and a tall man with an orange briefcase who works for the city. This team marches through the lobby—brown tiles, dim lights—with Wintour in the lead. Inside Macy’s, the store has assembled its own flotilla.

“Oh my God,” Wintour says softly, and then she covers her mouth with her hand. Soon she is weaving through racks of knit separates trailed by no fewer than twenty people, but it is hard to count because the crowd keeps growing, like a snowball, adding a pair of security men (short, bald, matching suits) here and someone from marketing (staticky blow-dry, patent-leather pumps) there.

The space for the Hair performance is pointed out. “Have you seen Hair?” Wintour asks. “They move around a lot.”

“We can certainly do it somewhere else,” answers one of the Macy’s contingent.

“Can we … enhance?” Wintour wants to know, now looking up at the greenish lights and down at the floor. “Sisal rugs? Some baskets of hydrangeas? Something to soften the light?” A very tan man in a sharp blue blazer—the event designer—nods. He can certainly enhance.

“Yes,” Wintour says, “Some … enhancements would be good.”

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68 Minutes With Anna Wintour