The event “Masterclass with Anna Wintour and Edward Enninful” was held at Bocconi University on 23 September 2021, with the participation of Anna Wintour, Edward Enninful, Francesca Ragazzi, and Simone Marchetti. The participants explored the features of quality journalism, the power of storytelling, the importance of brand identity and a multitude of voices, and how digitalization is changing the way media outlets are connecting with their audiences.
On 23 September 2021, Bocconi University welcomed four of the most important and influential figures in fashion journalism in “A Masterclass with Anna Wintour and Edward Enninful”. The speakers were Anna Wintour (Editor-in-Chief of Vogue and Global Chief Content Officer for Condé Nast), Edward Enninful (Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue), Francesca Ragazzi (Fashion Market Director of Vogue Italia), and Simone Marchetti (Vanity Fair European Editorial Director and Editor-in-Chief of Vanity Fair Italia). The event was moderated by Bocconi professors Paola Cillo, Gabriella Lojacono, and Emanuela Prandelli.
Bocconi University Rector Gianmario Verona’s welcome speech initiated the event, and the event continued with Anna Wintour’s speech about the global mass media company Condé Nast’s vision, goals and projects. The speech was followed by personal and career-related questions directed to Edward Enninful and his answers, and the event concluded with a roundtable in which all speakers responded to questions revolving around many themes such as creativity, brand identity, and diversity.
Anna Wintour’s Speech
Anna Wintour started her speech by revealing the secrets of thriving in the “content business”, which included inclusivity, creativity, and stepping out of one’s comfort zone. She gave the example of Sarah Burton, who is stepping away from the “unforgiving fashion calendar” and timing her collection to the opening of London’s Frieze Art Fair, and, according to Wintour, this kind of thinking is what moves the media industry forward.
She then spoke about how encouraging she is of change, and the “thrill” of seeing fashion designers making their debuts in Milan and being featured by Vogue Italia, highlighting the importance of a sense of community towards colleagues and audiences.
“The audience wants to be affected and excited by what they read”, Wintour states, describing how Condé Nast connects with their audience, making “stories that speak to the lives they are living, and capture the sweet of the wider world” on a local and global level. At Condé Nast, they aim at being on top of what’s happening on the ground and providing stories that satisfy the curiosity of readers, and they believe these goals can be best achieved through the lens of fashion.
Wintour sees fashion as a global language with which we can produce stories for wide audiences. “What if we were launching Vogue today instead of a century ago?”, Wintour asks the question which helps Condé Nast straighten and reshape their vision.
Wintour then spoke about the recent collaborations the company has undertaken. First was “The World Made Local”, a collaboration among the seven international editions of Condé Nast Traveler which features 100 local guides from 100 different countries sharing their origins and cultures. She also mentioned a collaboration between Vanity Fair Italy, France, and Spain for a special European issue celebrating women, and the initiative that brought all 27 editions of Vogue together under the “New Beginnings” theme, in which all editions featured a sunrise on their September 2021 issues’ covers, communicating a fresh start.
Finally, she took us down memory lane, telling the story of her journalist father who was always on the run for “breaking stories”, and remarked on how the journalism industry has grown bigger and now presents bigger opportunities.
In the next part of the Masterclass, guests were asked questions by the moderators. Enninful was first asked about how Vogue integrates quality into the new world of fashion that has a multitude of voices. Enninful responded that in the 1980s and ‘90s, the magazine was the only medium, whereas today there are social media, Vogue’s website, and other platforms, which amplify the work of image-makers because whatever they do, they must think of all the media they have.
On a more personal question about the most important people in his life that made him the talent he is now, Enninful mentioned, among others, Terry and Tricia Jones, who gave him a job as fashion director at the i-D magazine when he was 18, and Anna Wintour, who was the first person to hire him in the US.
When asked about what we should do to achieve more diversity and inclusion, Enninful replied:
“The world has been through a lot, so we have to see things differently and we have to look at different body shapes, people of different ages, people of different sizes… It is easy to put people in shows, or in advertising campaigns but we need people behind the scenes…”
Then, Enninful was asked what it really means to be the chief editor of Vogue UK and the European editorial director of Vogue. He stated that it is a huge responsibility to represent readers and be the guardian of the many platforms on which Vogue is present today. He said that he is there to teach and learn from his teams and to ensure that local voices are amplified.
The next question was about the creation of the magazine and what the first steps were to find inspiration. Saying that “no man is an island”, Enninful pointed out the importance of a good team. He said as a team, they exchanged ideas and collectively figured out what to do.
On how to create a cover page that stands out, Enninful said that they trusted their instincts: “If somebody is about ‘now’, he or she needs to be featured.” Wintour, on the other hand, focused more on the storytelling aspect: “It is not good enough to just have the image, what is the story behind it?”
When asked about how to be a good storyteller, Wintour’s advice was to “be direct, incisive, and clear”, which she believed was more important than ever given the crowdedness of the current media landscape. To differentiate Condé Nast from other media companies, they were after quality journalism, interconnecting “intelligent writing, incisive imagery, and exciting video storytelling” across all media platforms.
Regarding the establishment of brand identity, Enninful believed that “you have to know your DNA”. He said that inclusivity was one of the most important values of Condé Nast and that it was in the DNA of Vogue because they speak to a lot of people, while Wintour believed that Vogue had changed quite a bit in terms of inclusivity:
“Now it is for everyone, we talk to audiences all over the world simultaneously. It is so much more democratic than when it was launched, when it was meant to be for 400 society ladies. That world is over, and how much more exciting is the world we are living in today!”
Francesca Ragazzi was asked how a company can continue being relevant in the future, and she stated that the key point was being honest and transparent: “If it is not real, it will never work. It needs to provoke real emotions.” She emphasized the importance of retaining the human side on the digital platform, besides the importance of editing, thanks to which they make sure that the ideas go through Vogue values.
On the nature of their journalism, Simone Marchetti commented that Condé Nast was a place of pioneers and that today, more than ever, one has to be a pioneer or one will lose everything.
“Being a pioneer is a lesson from this new, amazing generation that is changing the world…The magazine has to do the same…If you are not one step ahead of what is known, you are losing. That’s my suggestion to this amazing audience. You have the chance, the voice, the instruments to be a pioneer, in whatever you are doing.”
A question from one of the students was what Wintour thought she did differently in her career to stand out and to be a source of inspiration for young talents. Wintour believed she has been “very lucky to have incredible mentors in [her] life that [she has] learned so much from”. She recounted the story of one of her mentors, Katharine Graham, whose family owned The Washington Post. During her marriage to Philip Graham, in line with society’s expectations at the time, Katharine was a traditional housewife with children while her husband ran the newspaper. When Philip died by suicide, Katharine went in almost overnight, taking over the empire of The Washington Post. She did “a remarkable job, starting relatively late in life and having had absolutely no experience.”
“If you look back to the Watergate scandal, and the amazing journalism that was published by The Washington Post, that was due to Kate. She had the courage and the conviction to take down a president that deserved to be taken down…What she taught me…is that you have to be fearless and that you have to take risks…[W]e all make mistakes, that’s life, life is not perfect. You actually learn more from your mistakes sometimes than from your successes.”
The final question was how we could reach new audiences and generations while staying consistent with company values. Enninful responded that they had to use all the modern tools they had at hand, such as social media. He also underlined the role of innovation and courage.
“You have to be fearless, take opportunities when they arrive…We have to pay for it, we have to meet the moment, and I feel like that’s what we have done, that’s what we are continuing to do, and that’s what really excites me to still be here doing what I do all these years.”