SHINY: THE STORY OF THE INSIDE OF VOGUE
by Nina-Sophia Miralles (Quercus £ 20,352pp)
In 2006, I was at a screening of The Devil Wears Prada with a friend who was a senior executive at British Vogue. In the film, based on a novel-a-clef by a former Vogue assistant, Meryl Streep plays terrifying fashion editor Miranda Priestly, all humiliated, with devastating one-liners and ferocious black-rimmed glasses.
It was widely accepted as a thinly disguised portrait of the equally terrifying Vogue editor Anna Wintour. I asked my girlfriend what she thought of the movie. “It was quite an understatement,” she said.
Famous for her slimness and unrelenting silence, Wintour can arouse fear and fascination, even if you’re not exactly fashion-conscious. She was very ambitious and moved to New York in 1975, where she was appointed editor-in-chief of Vogue after several magazines.
Highly ambitious, Anna Wintour moved to New York in 1975 and was named editor-in-chief of Vogue after blistering by several magazines.
Her predecessor, Grace Mirabella, who had worked at the company for over 35 years, 17 years as an editor, heard that she had been fired on TV. It’s not pretty this game. Unlike the clothes.
Say what you love about Wintour – and there’s no shortage of people who want it – you can’t deny her staying power. She has been at the helm of American Vogue since 1988 and is now quite close to the top of the $ 2.4 trillion fashion industry.
But are her judgments starting to drift? Her magazine is currently engaged in a dispute with The Mail over the ridiculous suggestion that this newspaper is racist for using the utterly innocent word ‘niggling’ in an article headline about Meghan Markle.
That dispute came too late for this spicy history of the magazine, but there are many more.
Long-standing claims of sexual misconduct in the fashion industry eventually surfaced, and in 2018 Vogue stopped working with three of its greatest and longest-serving star photographers – Terry Richardson, Mario Testino and Bruce Weber – due to multiple allegations (all denied) of duress and sexual assault.
After last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, Wintour offered an unprecedented apology and acknowledged that too few black staff had been hired.
She has been at the helm of American Vogue since 1988 and is now quite close to the top of the $ 2.4 trillion fashion industry.
The magazine has shape about that. In an embarrassing 1960s episode, Vogue Paris editor Edmonde Charles-Roux, who saw fashion as an agent of social change, wanted to put African-American model Donyale Luna on the cover. The magazine’s owners, the Newhouse family, sent the editor-in-chief to talk her out in case it scared off advertisers. Charles-Roux wouldn’t budge, so she was fired, a decision she only discovered when she went to collect her salary and was told it was her last.
The woman known as Nuclear Wintour dominates the runway in this wonderfully gossiping parade of Vogue characters, although the honor of the longest-serving US editor of the Vogue goes to the much-celebrated Edna Woolman Chase, who reigned from 1914-52 and who, when told that one of her employees had attempted suicide by jumping on the subway, said, “We at Vogue don’t throw ourselves under the subway, my dear. If necessary, we take sleeping pills. ‘
Wintour’s first job was on Harpers & Queen, where she was considered ‘imperious and a bit ridiculous’. When she got British Vogue (known internally as ‘Brogue’), her colleague – later rival – Liz Tilberis said her boss’s behavior was so ‘unpleasant that I started having asthma attacks’.
Anna Wintour sits next to Queen Elizabeth II as they watched Richard Quinn’s runway show before presenting him with the first Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design in February 2018.
Like many of the best ideas, the magazine was born in someone’s spare bedroom. Although in this case it was a large and richly decorated room in a New York mansion owned by a very aristocratic, old New York money publisher named Arthur Turnure.
His daughter was called Vogue, and the magazine was his way of introducing her to snobbish and intensely classy New York high society.
Then (as now) Vogue wrote high society, balls and ballgowns and a life far beyond the experience and means of most of us – but people clearly love to read about it. He produced an elegant magazine for the burgeoning American middle class who wanted to peek into a world closed to them, while the wealthy bought it to see what their friends were up to. A brainwave.
A book of fascinating gossip features a compelling portrait of how British Vogue became part of the sexual subculture.
Oscar Wilde’s lesbian niece Dolly was both an early staffer and a heroin addict; Aldous Huxley, author of the apocalyptic novel Brave New World and a fierce advocate of open marriage, worked for Vogue for years; as did Vita Sackville-West, who explored the boundaries of her own open marriage by establishing relationships with men and women.
But it also earned its living. The UK issue helped save US Vogue after the Wall Street Crash in 1929, when the market was losing $ 14 billion a day and clerks at hotels in the Financial District asked guests if they wanted rooms to sleep or jump in.
[L-R] Princess Diana of Wales, Wahsington Post owner Katheryn Graham, Wintour, designer Ralph Lauren, and Georgetown University President Leo J. O’Donovan attend a multi-million dollar fundraising event for the Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research
However, no one has ever argued that fashion cannot be a bitchy business. American Joan Juliet Buck was born into a life of immense privilege, wealthy enough to be hired by British Vogue on a meager salary before editing French Vogue (Frogue) from 1994 to 2001.
Daughter of a Hollywood producer and his supermodel wife, Buck grew up in luxury on the outskirts of Paris, where Lauren Bacall and Peter O’Toole were dinner guests and her best friend Anjelica Huston.
GLOSSY: THE INSIDE STORY OF VOGUE by Nina-Sophia Miralles (Quercus £ 20,352pp)
She had a romance with Donald Sutherland, and Leonard Cohen wanted her to run away with him. Lifelong friends included Jackie Kennedy, Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld. But the staff suspected her of being Anna Wintour’s spy and spoke to her instead of French, although she was fluent. When she left, Buck was ordered to go to rehab or she wouldn’t receive her severance package. She was completely sober but agreed because she needed the money to take care of her elderly father.
The question now is: can such a luxury magazine have a future in a digital age? Under its new editor Edward Enninful, British Vogue’s first black gay male editor-in-chief, the ground has shifted: it’s more political and considerably more diverse.
Nina-Sophia Miralles is fiercely critical of the edition being guest edited by Meghan Markle, but she adds that Enninful and Markle share the same ‘awake’ tone that has become a staple of the new Vogue.
What seems certain to remain are the tantrums, tantrums, and tears that have always been a part of the magazine’s history. Even Wintour wasn’t immune to the hostile atmosphere: In her early days at Vogue, contemporaries recall crying on the phone to her future husband, a child psychiatrist who “ behaved more like her personal life coach than a lover. ”
When she first showed up, then-editor Grace Mirabella asked her what job she wanted. “Yours,” Wintour replied.
Ambition brings big rewards, but it can also come at a cost, as this fascinating history reveals.