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Anna Wintour is best known as the influential editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine, and for her iconic pageboy haircut and large sunglasses.
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In 1986, two years after she married South African psychiatrist David Shaffer, Wintour returned to London as chief editor of the Condé Nast-owned British Vogue. Not surprisingly, Wintour had her own ideas about the magazine and where it needed to go.
"I want Vogue to be pacy, sharp, and sexy, I'm not interested in the super-rich or infinitely leisured. I want our readers to be energetic, executive women, with money of their own and a wide range of interests,
" she told the London Daily Telegraph. "There is a new kind of woman out there. She's interested in business and money. She doesn't have time to shop anymore. She wants to know what and why and where and how."
Wintour's sharp critiques and lack of patience soon earned a few memorable nicknames: "Nuclear Wintour" and "Wintour of Our Discontent." The editor, though, relished it. "I'm the Condé Nast hit man," she told a friend. "I love coming in and changing magazines."
Her next big makeover came in 1987 with another Condé Nast publication, Home and Garden, where she summarily changed the publication's title to HG and managed to reject nearly $2 million of already-paid-for photos and articles.
Grumblings about Wintour's changes were quick to appear, but her bosses at Condé Nast were clearly behind her, doling out a salary of more than $200,000 to its demanding editor, and allowing a $25,000 annual allowance for clothes and other amenities. In addition, the magazine's owners arranged for Concorde flights between New York and London so Wintour and her husband could be together.
Wintour's stay at HG didn't last long. In 1988 she was named editor-in-chief of Vogue, allowing for her return to New York. The move by Condé Nast came at a time when its signature fashion publication was at a crossroads. A magazine that had been at the forefront of the fashion world since the early 1960s, Vogue suddenly found itself losing ground to a three-year-old upstart, Elle, which had already reached a paid circulation of 850,000. Vogue's subscriber base meanwhile, was a stagnant 1.2 million.
Fearing that the magazine had become complacent or worse, boring, Wintour was placed atop the editorial masthead with all the freedom, not to mention financial backing, that she needed to revitalize the publication. In her more than two-decade reign at the magazine, Wintour more than accomplished her mission, restoring Vogue,'s preeminence while producing some truly mammoth magazines. The September 2004 edition, for example, clocked in at 832 pages, the most ever for a monthly magazine.
Along the way, Wintour demonstrated fearlessness about forging new ground. She decisively called an end to the supermodel era, showcasing a preference for celebrities rather than models on her covers. Wintour was also the first to truly mix low-end fashion items with more expensive pieces in her photo shoots. Her debut cover in November 1988 included a 19-year-old Israeli model outfitted in a pair of $50 jeans and a $10,000 jewel-encrusted t-shirt.
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