Those who talked to her that day say that Anna Wintour is nothing like the character in The Devil Wears Prada. Meeting her face to face served to deconstruct the legend that surrounds the head of the US edition of Vogue magazine.
“She is a woman of flesh and blood,” confesses Lorena Pérez, co-founder of Moda Mentoring, a project that seeks to promote the fashion industry in Spain and the rest of the world. “She is very polite. She shows just the right degree of familiarity, no more and no less.”
When you’re talking to her, you have to get to the point”
Fashion designer Álvaro Castejón
Pérez says that she was “very nervous” about meeting Wintour, but that was just until she had the chance to chat with her for a few minutes.
The editor-in-chief of Vogue showed an interest in her project, kept asking her questions and even agreed to get involved. “I asked her to participate and she was interested,” adds Pérez in a telephone conversation.
And so the lighting-quick visit to Spain by the most powerful woman in the fashion world did more than just fulfill US Ambassador James Costos’ goal of encouraging Spanish-American fashion relations – it also served to undo the cliché about Wintour’s formidable personality.
At least, so say some of the people who met her at a lunch hosted by Costos at his Madrid residence last Monday.
Another guest at the event was Carlos Baranda, founder of Glent Shoes, which makes custom-made footwear for men.
“She is a woman of few words; I can say that she is a great lady,” says Baranda. “It was a very positive meeting. She is a friendly, pleasant woman who never makes you feel uncomfortable. She was very surprised to hear about our business model. She is very knowledgeable, and clearly sees that fashion has to be viewed as an industry.”
Both Pérez and Baranda agree that much of the credit for the success of the event goes to the hosts, Ambassador James Costos and his husband, interior decorator Michael S. Smith.
“They’re always wearing a smile on their faces. They’re the ones who introduced us to Wintour and told her a little bit about our projects,” explains Baranda.
After that, it was up to the guests to continue the conversation. And Wintour was always ready to listen, they report.
Prior to the lunch, Wintour had delivered a lecture before a small crowd at the Madrid fashion museum, the Museo del Traje, where she met a few Spanish designers.
These included Víctor Alonso, co-founder of the María ke Fisherman brand – which has been worn by Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga – and Álvaro Castejón, co-creator of Alvarno.
“She’s a very normal person, it really busted the myth for me. She’s charming,” says Alonso, who used the precious few minutes he had with Wintour to show her some of his designs and share anecdotes.
Pérez and Baranda also underscore that Wintour knows how to listen.
“When you talk to her she follows the conversation, she asks questions, she voices opinions,” says Alonso.
But she also doesn’t like to beat about the bush, adds Castejón.
“When you’re talking to her, you have to get to the point,” he notes. And while he had no more than one or two minutes of her time – Wintour wanted to meet every one of the designers who had been asked to the lunch event – Castejón came away with the impression that she is a real businesswoman. “When she’s talking to you, you get her undivided attention.”
It was also Castejón who made Wintour laugh.
“I gave her a USB memory stick with some of our work. But the stick is shaped like a robot from the movie Star Wars. When she saw it she laughed out loud and told me, ‘This is great’.”
English version by Susana Urra.