When Anna Wintour sat, smiled, giggled and whispered beside Queen Elizabeth in the front row at Richard Quinn’s London Fashion Week runway show in February 2018, the headlines and captions practically wrote themselves. ‘The Queen of Fashion Pals Around with the Queen of England’, ‘Game Recognizes Game’, ‘Squad Goals’, ‘Royal Besties’, ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘The Crown(s)’, etc.
The Richard Quinn show was, in fact, the Queen’s first-ever appearance at London Fashion Week, and her attendance was a shocking last-minute surprise. The occasion: to present emerging designer Richard Quinn with the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design.
Her Majesty, then 91, wore a duck egg blue tweed dress and jacket by Angela Kelly. Anna, who was made a Dame the year prior, wore her trademark sunglasses (breaking royal protocol), floral print midi dress, and brown leather boots. (On the other side of the Queen for the historic day was British Fashion Council Chief Executive Caroline Rush.)
But, as is often the case when it concerns Wintour — Vogue’s long-running Editor-in-Chief — the viral, much-photographed moment was brilliantly choreographed behind the scenes, and left a significant casualty in its wake: Edward Enninful, then the Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue, who was often tagged in the press as Anna’s likeliest successor as the top editor at American Vogue. (Spoiler alert: Edward is now out, and Anna, 73, remains atop her perch 35 years on with no apparent plans to retire.)
In this exclusive excerpt from a new afterword of the paperback edition of Anna: A Biography — a masterful New York Times bestselling biography of the media and fashion titan’s life and legacy so far— author and journalist Amy Odell sheds surprising new light on Anna and The Queen’s front row confab.
The positive buzz around Enninful, British Vogue’s first Black editor-in-chief, and his vision of showcasing diversity escalated quickly — but so did his tension with Anna. On February 20, 2018, Enninful attended a dinner in Milan with Newhouse for the Italian high-end puffy coat brand Moncler. That same day, Anna was photographed at Richard Quinn’s fashion show seated next to Queen Elizabeth.
A notice had gone out previously that a member of the royal family would attend the event. Usually, such notices concerned lesser royals, but Anna—who hadn’t planned to go — got a personal tip from a member of the British Fashion Council that it would be the Queen. So she went and got that epic photo op, leaving Enninful so upset that Anna had gotten both the tip and the pictures that he was said to have cried.
[Then-Chief Executive of Conde Nast Jonathan] Newhouse scolded Anna for not sharing the information about the Queen—but it didn’t matter. Condé Nast International merged with Condé Nast in New York shortly thereafter, ultimately leaving Anna with the title of chief content officer, worldwide, and global editorial director of Vogue. While Enninful ultimately took on oversight of European Vogues (including France, Spain, Germany, and Italy), Anna was, once again, his boss.