Exclusive interview: Anna Wintour holds court in Beijing

Updated 29th June 2015
Exclusive interview: Anna Wintour holds court in Beijing
Written by Kristie Lu Stout, CNNBeijing
Watch the full show on CNN's Talk Asia at the following times (GMT); Thursday May 7: 0930; Friday May 8, 0430; Saturday May 9, 0530, 1630.
What do you wear to interview Anna Wintour?
Earlier this year in Beijing, I had the opportunity to sit down with the legendary editor of American Vogue. And the most common question I received about the encounter was not about her career or the latest cover or the Met Gala.
It was about my wardrobe.
And I can understand why. Influential and intimidating, Wintour is said to be the most powerful person in the industry and, need we be reminded, the inspiration for the bestselling book and Hollywood blockbuster, "The Devil Wears Prada."
Written by former personal assistant Lauren Weisberger over a decade ago, the book catapulted Wintour firmly into the mainstream. Wintour tells me she doesn't consider the book as a breach of trust, but rather... an opportunity.
"I think I should be grateful to her because she brought attention to Vogue and to fashion," Wintour tells me while wearing -- for the record -- a suit by Chanel.

China's rising stars

In 2015, she's taken that attention to China by promoting a new Costume Institute exhibit called "China: Through the Looking Glass" which opens this week at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The show examines the history and impact of Chinese art and film on Western design.
Since the 1990s, Wintour has organized the Costume Institute's annual fundraising event, the Met Gala. Under her stewardship, the Gala has raised more than $145 million for the Costume Institute.
While in China, Wintour promoted the new exhibit and met with a few emerging Chinese designers.
Though local talent like Uma Wang have captured her attention, China's fashion industry is still at a very nascent stage of development.
But Wintour believes that will change with the next generation of Chinese design students.
"Their sensibility and their work ethic is absolutely extraordinary. When they return to China, the influence they're going to have in the next decade, the next generation, is going to be huge," she tells me.
Wintour advises China's design students to not be seduced by the insta-fame of social media stardom. It's better to take the traditional path, and learn as an apprentice.
"It makes much, much more sense for them to work with a designer that they admire, whose work is something they aspire to, and learn their craft in the business of fashion."
Is China the next global fashion powerhouse?

Always perfect? Huge mistake

Wintour has left an indelible mark on fashion since her very first cover for American Vogue in 1988.
Showcasing a model wearing a bejeweled Christian Lacroix top with jeans, it mixed high and low during the gilded "Dynasty" era of 1980s fashion. It was an editorial call that was ahead of its time.
Over the last three decades, Wintour has stayed ahead of the curve in a notoriously fickle industry, turning the magazine into a style bible that reaches an audience of over 12 million people and transforming American Vogue into a key player in the global fashion business.
She's also credited with predicting the rise of the celebrity by putting pop figures like Oprah Winfrey and Lena Dunham on her covers well before her rivals.
But with the rise of reality TV and "Kim Kardashian breaking the Internet," has it all gone a little bit too far?
"I don't think in today's world you can go too far," Wintour replies. "However you may feel about social media or the Internet or selfies, it's part of how we all live today. Vogue needs to understand and reflect that"
Going too far? I don't think you can in today's world
Anna Wintour
"One can edit within that discussion, one can have a point of view in that discussion, but to ignore it would be ridiculous and blind."
Last year, Wintour was widely criticized for putting Kim Kardashian and Kanye West on the cover of Vogue. But the editor is proud of her bold editorial call for a rather curious reason.
"I feel it would be a huge mistake for Vogue always to be completely tasteful, completely perfect. I think it's very important for us to also rock the boat."
"Otherwise, we risk the situation that we may become out of touch, or no longer relevant. So it's important to push that envelope."
Wintour is a risk-taker and edgy tastemaker in the world of publishing. But her reach doesn't end there.
She also founded the CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund, which mentors the next generation of fashion design talent.
"I have such an extraordinary platform where I am able to help people to me, that's the number one priority," she says.

"Getting things done"

Affectionately regarded by some as fashion's fairy godmother, Anna Wintour has lifted the careers of many in the industry.
And yet her name can also strike fear. Wintour's success and determination have earned her a reputation of being outright intimidating.
Is that unfair?
I like to get things done quickly
Anna Wintour
"I think I'm decisive and I like to get things done quickly. So if that comes across as intimidation, I'm sorry to hear it. But it's more in the interest of getting things done."
So don't take that withering glance personally. Anna Wintour is a power player who holds court at the intersection of publishing, fashion and philanthropy.
Anna Wintour gives back
And as for what I wore for the interview?
I kept it practical. A DVF sweater dress with a vaguely chinoiserie print to cope with the Beijing cold and stay in theme, along with a pair of over-the-knee Robert Clergerie flat boots to run with the crew.
Anna Wintour didn't raise an eyebrow, and I'm thankful for that.
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