Last night I had a privilege to preview The September Issue
documentary at the Bryant Park Hotel's private screening room, along with about 70 other press members. The movie is surprising on many levels and is a definite must to see for anyone who is remotely curious about fashion or the fact why is it so important (or is it?). I wanted to focus on some of the lessons I've learned from watching closely one of the last dictators of our times - Anna Wintour
. I can't escape the comparison to the recent Valentino
movie, titled The Last Emperor
. There are too many similarities between the two, and if I was in charge of giving a proper title to this film I would definitely go for The Last Dictator
. I'm not sure if Anna Wintour
will also follow Valentino
in retiring right after the movie premiere and her own 60th birthday this November, but we may have gotten the last look at the way of ruling the fashion world that won't exist after Anna's eventual departure. The times have changed and it's getting harder to control the industry while so many disruptive forces (such as independent online media) slowly take a share in defining the message.
When I call Anna a dictator, I don't necessarily refer to her in a negative way, but rather as a powerful figure that has an exclusive control over a certain territory. Like many powerful figures, Anna provides quite a few powerful lessons throughout the film, which I tried to analyze below.
1. The importance of having another genius person working behind the scenes of your brand. Just like Valentino has his partner Giancarlo Giammetti who was responsible for much of his success and wouldn't have been known to masses without the movie, Anna has Grace Coddington, who is responsible to the most artistic editorial spreads we've ever seen in Vogue. This reminds us that not all great people are geniuses, they definitely know how to intrigue and manipulate the public opinion, but they aren't solely responsible for their success.
2. Decisiveness. As per the film director, R.J. Cutler, who was answering our questions last night, the thing that most impressed him about Anna Wintour is her decisiveness. At some point in the movie, she makes several decisions in about 10 seconds: yes, no, no, no, yes. She always knows what she wants, never questions her inner voice and never looks back. I think it's such an important quality of every leader. Just think how much time you spend every day on decision making and weighing in all the options…
3. The ability to edit. One of the things we learn from the documentary is that Anna is actually deeply involved in many designers decisions related to their collections. She helps Oscar de la Renta and John Galliano to cut down their runway looks from 125 to 62, which seems to be very hard for these artists of the trade. The ability to edit translates to everything in life - from our wardrobe to daily work tasks, and it's an important skill to have.
4. Less is more. Anna mentions it at least once in a movie, and I think it's one of the secrets of her power. It's in the way she expresses herself, verbally, visually and emotionally. The reason people value her opinion is because she doesn't express it very often. When she does, you listen.
5. Ignore your critics. One of my favorite Anna's quotes from the very first frame of the movie says: "What I often see is that people are frightened of fashion, and because it scares them, makes them feel insecure or not included, they try to put it down." This statement could be applied to so many different things and is a very important lesson to prepare you for any path you chose. When you try to innovate or have a certain point of view, unfortunately many times there will be people who will try to put you down. It’s helpful to understand what motivates them so you can ignore and focus on your vision. Just like Anna ignores her critics, and focuses on what she does best – rules a powerful empire that creates fantasy moments for the rest of us.