Any other year, the first Monday in May would find Anna Wintour perched atop the Metropolitan Museum of Art stairs in couture — presiding over a star-studded Met Gala that would dominate the news cycle for days.
This 2020 extravaganza was going to be especially poignant. With the theme “About Time: Fashion and Duration,” the gala was to mark the museum’s 150th anniversary. But like every major event in recent months, it has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Meanwhile, Wintour, who is both the Vogue editor-in-chief and artistic director of publisher Condé Nast — as well as the name behind the Met’s Anna Wintour Costume Center — has found herself in the headlines for less savory reasons.
Last week, an excerpt from former Vogue editor-at-large André Leon Talley’s memoir, “Chiffon Trenches,” revealed that he has been left with “huge emotional and psychological scars” from his relationship with his longtime friend Wintour, whom he’s fallen out with in recent years.
The 70-year-old Talley acknowledges she helped his career blossom, as she has those of many big designers, but ultimately put him out to pasture and is “not capable” of “human kindness.”
Meanwhile, his friend, veteran designer Ralph Rucci, piled on in an Instagram post, writing the “door has been OPENED WIDE [to criticize Wintour]…..There has been so much personal evil and destruction, and now perhaps others will feel safe to speak.”
In simpler times, to bash Wintour, 70, would be career suicide.
But some industry insiders say the battle royale “vindicates” those who have felt snubbed by Wintour over the years and exposes cracks in the almighty power she has wielded over her fashion fiefdom for decades.
“Everyone in the industry looked at the André story and the Ralph story with a great deal of relish and schadenfreude,” a fashion editor at a competing publication tells The Post.
“I have many friends who worked at Vogue who feel vindicated,” a socialite and former Condé Nast employee tells The Post of the Talley book.
The book was originally slated to drop in May the week of the Met Gala but was moved to September because of the pandemic. Now, according to Women’s Wear Daily, the media coverage of the juicy bits has created a great deal of interest, so the book is being released on May 19.
It has proven to be horrific timing for the meticulous and savvy Wintour.
“She can’t be out and about to defend herself publicly. She loses a big platform [with the Met cancellation]. It’s her signature event and a major windfall for the magazine,” says the editor.
Instead, a softer Wintour has been photographed at home wearing jogging pants and promoting A Common Thread, an initiative spearheaded by Vogue and the Council of Fashion Designers of America to raise money for those in the fashion industry who have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
Insiders point out that Rucci, a designer long favored by a certain old guard of socialites, was not a Vogue regular.
“To a certain extent, a lot of the designers who were left out in the cold, so to speak, probably feel like the Berlin Wall has come down — and there is something exciting about their liberation,” says Aliza Licht, who was the SVP of global communications for Donna Karan and is now host of the “Leave Your Mark” podcast. “[It’s like,] ‘Oh great, now we don’t have to care that they don’t care about us.’ ”
But as an industry insider noted, the entire fashion world has been undergoing a seismic shift, where fashion brands can leverage the power of social media and celebrity dressing — meaning they aren’t necessarily as dependent on Wintour’s seal of approval. “The power of Vogue has diminished over the course of time — based on the industry evolving,” says the insider. “It’s background noise. It’s not the thing anymore.”
Talley told WWD that he sent Wintour a galley of the book and that she asked him to make a few changes, which he did. But sources told The Post that Wintour was also extremely hurt by the highly personal nature of his attacks, as were her longtime loyal colleagues at the magazine.
“They think he’s lost his marbles and don’t understand why he would do this,” says a Condé Nast insider.
“[Wintour] has a lot of people who have worked with her for a very long time who have nothing but respect and adoration for her,” says Licht. “She is a serious person who takes her job seriously. She is strategic and meticulous. Those are the qualities of a CEO.”
A source close to Wintour said her powers haven’t diminished, and she’s still the only person capable of empowering and steering the fashion world through a crisis.
“No one has rallied the fashion community as consistently as she has to create efforts to benefit our industry in times of need,” said the source, pointing to Fashion’s Night Out, AIDS awareness campaign Seventh on Sale and now A Common Thread. “She continues to be a force for good. More than ever in this moment, she is the person you want in charge.”
The socialite and former Condé insider doesn’t see Wintour vacating her throne anytime soon, adding that the queen can take people “snickering behind her back. Fashion is a dirty business.”
“A Moment With the Met” livestream will begin at 6 p.m. ET Monday on Vogue’s YouTube channel, and will include an address by Wintour, a performance by Florence + The Machine and a DJ set by designer Virgil Abloh.