An Interview: Anna Wintour

"It’s not about forcing how we choose to present our stories into the same mold. It’s about seeing how our readers interact with each medium, and what we feel each medium has to offer the reader." -Anna Wintour

Humberto Leon, one of the co-founders of Opening Ceremony, recently had the opportunity to speak with Anna Wintour.

There's something truly inspiring about discussing fashion with Anna Wintour that goes beyond her great influence. When Carol and I were invited to her office to discuss Fashion's Night Out, among other topics, we were struck by how passionate and curious she remains about the fashion world. We were surprised to find ourselves geeking out with Anna on 'Like a Prayer'-era Madonna, her iPad, lost Soho oculists, and what prompted her to put a pair of jeans on the cover of Vogue in 1988. Of course, the order of the day was Fashion's Night Out, the event she developed last year to jumpstart global retail. I think that one of the things we share with Anna is an excitement for shopping, and a belief that retail should be fun, which is why being part of the event comes second nature to Opening Ceremony. Humberto Leon: What's new for Fashion's Night Out (FNO) this year? Anna Wintour: This year we have a CBS documentary on the making of the event, and we’re staging the largest public fashion show in New York’s history with some of the world’s top models. It will be a carnival-style celebration like last year, only bigger and better, with more cities and retailers participating.

HL: We hear that Vogue is organizing a giant FNO fashion show at Lincoln Center, the new home of Fashion Week. What can we expect to see? AW: Traditionally, shows are industry events, so this is unique as we’re staging it for the consumer. Not only will shoppers preview the best trends for fall on many of the world’s most recognized models, but they will also have the opportunity to purchase those trends on Fashion’s Night Out. No matter their style or budget, anyone can translate the latest trends to suit their tastes and wardrobe.

HL: How can FNO achieve the same impact abroad as it has in NY? AW: Last year, many cities had very successful celebrations. The fact that 3 more countries have decided to join in is a testament to last year’s success. At its core, FNO is a celebration of fashion, and each city knows best how to tailor the event to suit the needs of its culture. But what’s interesting is the transactional element – stores are taking the creative initiative to draw consumers in. Each city is responsible for thinking outside the box to create that unique environment and connect shoppers with fashion on a whole different level.

HL: As a retailer, Opening Ceremony realizes that FNO is the best excuse to do something really fun, exciting, new, and fresh for our customers. Is this what you imagined for FNO? AW: Absolutely. Opening Ceremony is a great example of a retailer that knows its consumer and is responding to their interests, personalities, and shopping habits. The store is always current and exciting, so people are destined to return again and again. It is a wonderful microcosm of what we hope the world of FNO will be on Sept 10.

HL: Ignoring budget and logistics, can you describe your fantasy FNO? AW: Looking at the impressive lineup for this year, I think we are already seeing the fantasy being played out in reality.

HL: What is a change you've seen in the fashion industry since the first FNO? AW: I believe consumer confidence is being restored. People are out there shopping again without the level of guilt or concern of the previous year. Also, it’s built community amongst designers and retailers, both competitors and otherwise, and brought together all aspects of American culture and arts, which is an exciting aspect in and of itself. It’s a time of the year when fashion cities around the world are united in a cause, which is wonderful.

HL: What's your vision for FNO 10 years from now? AW: That retailers and consumers will be inventing bigger and better ideas to celebrate fashion.

HL: Do you read fashion blogs, and if so, which ones are your favorites? AW: Yes, of course. We’ve featured many bloggers in Vogue. Hanneli Mustaparta and Rachel Chandler are regular contributors to

HL: How do you think fashion blogs have affected magazine content? AW: Like any evolution in the industry, they force you to become better at what you do. Vogue’s in-depth articles and beautiful fashion stories, along with coverage of the arts within a fashion context, is not something that exists in the same way on blogs. They force us to dig deeper for stories, but we’re not competitors; we serve different markets.

HL: Can photography and fashion editorials exist on the Internet? AW: Yes and they do. They are just presented in a different manner and provide more of a complementary voice to what lies in the pages of Vogue. Every medium serves a great purpose to reach our readers. It’s not about forcing how we choose to present our stories into the same mold. It’s about seeing how our readers interact with each medium, and what we feel each medium has to offer the reader.

HL: Your first Vogue cover featured jeans paired with a Christian Lacroix jacket. How did this idea, which was so revolutionary at the time, come about? Do you still take inspiration from youth culture? Is there anything happening in street style that you find interesting? AW: It was first and foremost a translation of a European aesthetic for the American consumer. It brought couture to the street and streetwear into Vogue during the era of Madonna’s Like A Prayer. It was also a recognition of the importance of personal style in fashion, which has played a role in Vogue ever since.

HL: Who do you think is New York's #1 shopper? AW: New York is a fashion-conscious city, and there are many anonymous shoppers who could claim that title.

HL: What influences your own sense of style? AW: I think style should always be an expression of an individual’s personality and tastes.

HL: What is your favorite store in New York that is no longer open? AW: There was an oculist on Prince Street that had great sunglasses and is sadly now a wine store.

HL: Do you own an iPad? AW: Yes, I do.

HL: Our FNO concept is patterned after great Parisian flea markets such as Clignancourt and Vanves. Have you ever been to any of them, and if so, what have you purchased? AW: I am usually in Paris on business and don’t make it out to the markets, but they are wonderful places with incredible history and serve an important role in the fashion industry.

HL: As you know, our country collaboration this year is with France. Would you mind sharing your favorite French spots? What are the best shopping neighborhoods/streets? AW: There are so many wonderful shopping areas in Paris. Different streets cater to different tastes, so it depends what I’m looking for.

HL: The place you most wish existed in NY? AW: I love the Place des Vosges and wish there was something like it in New York.

HL: The best hotel bar? AW: The bar at the Ritz.

HL: And finally, your favorite hidden spot? AW: If I told you it wouldn’t be hidden!