Vogue’s Anna Wintour Is a Secret Softie (When It Comes to Her Dogs)
The morning after the Met Gala, Anna: The Biography author Amy Odell reveals that the fashion icon is devoted to Goldendoodles and has finally sworn off fur.
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Anna Wintour is one of the most famous people in the fashion industry and easily the most famous magazine editor in the world. Maybe ever. She has been the editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine since 1988 and the global chief content officer of its parent company, Condé Nast, since 2020. She is, arguably, the single most powerful woman in the multi-billion-dollar American fashion industry and an icon in her own right. Meryl Streep was nominated for (and robbed of) an Oscar for playing a character based on Anna in the 2006 hit film, The Devil Wears Prada, and she has been the star of two wildly successful documentaries: The September Issue (2011) and The First Monday in May (2016).
And yet frustratingly little is known about her personal life. While Anna is notorious for her icy coldness at the office, she does have friends, passions outside work, children who love her, and even pets. Quite a few pets, as it turns out, according to Amy Odell, author of Anna: The Biography, an exhaustively researched deep dive into fashion’s most powerful tastemaker — which is out today.
It’s funny, I don’t really think of Anna Wintour as having pets. So what is she: a dog person or a cat person?
Nobody ever talked to me about her owning a cat, but they did talk to me about her and her dogs and how much she loves them. Anne McNally is one of her close, personal friends and she told me that Anna has had dogs for a long time and that she got a third puppy not long ago. She says that when the puppy cries, Anna picks them up at two o’clock in the morning and takes care of them.
What kinds of dogs does she have?
They’re all Goldendoodles, which I found surprising because Anna Wintour is someone who’s known for being cold in probably the majority of her human-human interactions at work. And a Goldendoodle, to me, is like a big, boisterous blonde, vivacious, upbeat sort of breed, right? So I thought it was fascinating that this woman who is so reserved, so controlled, has this big, boisterous happy breed of dog.
Maybe the dogs help balance her out.
Something joyful in her life. Absolutely.
Did she have pets growing up?
No one ever mentioned her having pets as a child, but she loved to ride horses.
Anna Wintour: horse girl! I guess that makes sense.
Another detail I included in the book is that all of her dogs were named for characters in To Kill a Mockingbird, which I thought was interesting. Anna is a voracious reader. She reads a lot and very fast and she reads a lot when she goes on vacation.
Did you talk to Anna herself?
Anna respectfully declined multiple requests to be interviewed. That said, a turning point for me in my process came about halfway through my reporting, which spanned around three years, when her office found out that I was working on the book. They reached out and we talked and ultimately she — through a representative — put forth a number of close friends and colleagues for me to interview.
In the end, I was able to interview more than 250 people. She connected me with everyone I requested and gave the OK for people to talk to me who wouldn’t talk to me otherwise. That was a big turning point for me because reporting on her was extremely difficult. In the beginning, people were hanging up on me and I had doubts about whether or not I was going to be able to do this because people are very loyal to her.
Dogs are certainly very loyal. Three is a lot, though, especially when they are Goldendoodles in Manhattan. Although I imagine she doesn’t really deal with the day-to-day care of them. She must have people for that, right?
I have a whole chapter in the book about her various assistants — she always has one or two or three — and it’s usually the second assistant’s job to help Anna with anything she needs relating to her dogs. It’s important to note that these are really her personal assistants. Assisting her is less about getting editorial experience at Vogue and more about helping her in a personal way with things that she needs done in order to function as the executive that she is.
I have a story in the book about how one of the dogs went missing out in Old Mastic, NY, on the sprawling estate she has out there. They made up “lost dog flyers” but the dogs were found before the flyers actually had to be handed out.
That poor assistant. I’d hate to have to be the one to tell her that her dog went missing. Delivering bad news of any kind to her must be terrifying.
A lot of people find her intimidating, but a number of people I spoke to said she really responds best to people who don’t treat her like she’s this icon. She likes people who will just walk into her office and ask her a question like she’s any other person. And she can make people very nervous. I mean, when she walks the halls of Condé Nast, people press themselves against the walls, so I imagine it must be refreshing when people can just walk into her office and ask her a question and get the work done that needs to get done.
That’s probably also why she likes dogs so much. They don’t know who she is or what she does. They just know that she loves them.
She got her first dog when she moved into her townhouse in the West Village. This was in the ‘90s and she got the dog for her children [Bee and Charles Shaffer]. The townhouse is unusual because in the back is a private garden area and then beyond that is a courtyard, which I imagine must be very nice for a dog. Having that kind of outdoor space in Manhattan is extremely unusual.
I’ve been there. The courtyard, I mean. It’s gorgeous. Like a secret garden.
I snuck into a house party in the mid-2000s in what turned out to be the house opposite Anna’s. They all had lovely little gardens with back gates that opened onto this beautiful, grassy park. I walked over and looked into her garden, which was very austere — like a Japanese rock garden.
She has said that she likes her home environment to be serene because her job is so visual. In researching the book, I really enjoyed learning all these details about her home life and who she is outside of the office, because that’s a side of her that isn’t really talked about and hasn’t been revealed in a big way. I will say that I was surprised that she has Goldendoodles. I’m not a dog person myself — I’ve always had cats — but don’t they shed a lot?
Not really. Golden Retrievers shed, but Goldendoodles have hair more like a Poodle. It’s apparently hypoallergenic and they don’t shed to the same degree.
Speaking of fur, I noticed while researching the book that Anna has stopped wearing real fur.
Really? She used to love real fur. She wore it everywhere.
I discuss her relationship to fur throughout the book. PETA and other organizations have lobbied her directly and aggressively for years to stop featuring fur in Vogue and for a long time she doubled down on her position. But what’s changed in fashion over the past six or seven years is that all the big houses have sworn off real fur and are switching to faux. So it’s really not surprising that someone so closely tied to the fashion industry would end up doing the same.
If she has sworn off fur, she certainly hasn’t been very vocal about it.
She hasn’t gone out in the press and been like, “I’m against fur now.” She just quietly decided that she no longer wanted to wear it. And I know that her collection was being sold off and some of the proceeds were being donated.
Donated to whom?
I can’t say anything more specific about that, but it must have been quite recently because she wore that feathered cape to the Met Gala [in 2019]. And I follow some of the Anna Wintour fashion fan accounts on Instagram and I’ve seen her in Stella McCartney recently and I think most of her favorite designers by now have sworn off fur. Because it used to be that you could count on one hand the designers that didn’t use fur and now you can count on one hand the designers who are. The shift has been that dramatic.
Well, fashion is all about change. And I suppose you don’t maintain the power that Anna has in an industry like that if you’re not willing to embrace change.
Charles Manning is an actor, writer, and fashion/media consultant living in New York City with his two cats, Pumpkin and Bear. Follow him on Instagram @charlesemanning.