On Friday, Ms Anna Wintour herself descended from heaven (ed. note: top floors of NYC’s Condé Nast building) and sat down with Vogue’s newly appointed International Editor Suzy Menkes, for a conversation with the notorious fashion icon, before opening up the floor to the audience for their own questions. The audience themselves consisted of fashion students, young designers and budding journalists, to which Anna offered some brilliant advice. From dressing celebrities at red carpet events, “The Tony’s: it was a disaster. They need you,” to the importance of knowing the business side of fashion; We made some notes that may be useful for you.
On the main difference between American and British fashion education: “The first step after college [in Britain] is to go straight into your own business. Whereas in the United States, students are more cautious or their emphasis is more on wanting to work with other designers first. I do think there is a tradition in England, that you can do anything with nothing. The only thing I worry a little bit about – going straight from school to starting your own business – is not that many succeed.
On fame vs success: It’s possible in today’s world to be instantly famous, whether it’s through Instagram or whatever platform it may be, but it’s a very different matter to be successful financially and in the long term. I personally would advise you to think carefully before you start your own business and consider possibly working for a designer or a company whose work you admire.
On business partners: It’s unusual, in my experience, for a creative designer to also be good at understanding facts and figures. It’s important to have someone to talk to and discuss everything with and bounce ideas off. I have not seen too many successful designers who’ve managed alone, without their business partner.
On presenting yourself: We started a fashion fund back in 2001, after 9/11, to support young designers in the States. What we’ve done recently is that when they have an application form, we also ask them for a video. How they present themselves publicly is important. In today’s world you have to interact. You can’t really be some difficult, shy person who is not able to look somebody in the face: you have to present yourself. You have to know how to talk about your vision, your focus and what you believe in. If you can’t be passionate about who you are and what you are doing: how can they [your audience] be?
On runway shows and presentations: Please listen to me when I say: an interesting creative presentation is just as effective as a fashion show. I see people who are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars on fashion shows, which I simply don’t think is necessary. A presentation gives us all an opportunity to meet you, rather than to go and sit in some dark room somewhere and wait for you to start; then [have] no time to say hello, and rush off to the next one.
On pre-collections: The basic truth of the matter is that 80% of what sells in the stores are the mid-season collections: resort and pre-fall. So when you’re ready, don’t ignore it, because it’s gonna be something that will help you all to pay the bills.
On red carpet events: The red carpet, in the United States, has become too much of a business. It’s a fact that celebrities are paid to wear everything, and to me that sometimes comes across as very manufactured and not individual. I was just recently at the Tony awards in New York, and, God, they need your help. Let me tell you, it was a disaster. So, there are opportunities, but don’t expect the Oscars the first time out.
They have all these teams of people telling them what to do, what to wear, how to do their hair, make-up. And they’re so scared of being criticized, whereas, you know, what’s wrong with looking different? How many mermaid fishtail strapless sequins [gowns] can we see?
On dealing with student loans debts: Go get a job. Whether it’s working as a designer or working in a restaurant and then doing your own thing in your own time: it’s a reality of life. In the end it’s going to be helpful to you and so many others.