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Vogue editor Anna Wintour visits York University

00:00 25 February 2016

Anna Wintour

Anna Wintour

Not Archant

Students are urged to learn from the best and be self sufficient. Photographs by Andy Bulmer
Anna WintourAnna Wintour

One of the most powerful women in fashion  adjusted her trademark sun glasses and studied the latest collections by students from across  northern England. Anna Wintour was the unlikely guest at a fashion event in the Central Hall at York University held in aid of refugee charities.

The editor-in-chief of American Vogue and artistic director of Conde Nast had been invited by her niece Ellie Wintour, a second-year English student at York University. But before the show, Ms Wintour talked about social media, the pursuit of fame and her support for Hillary Clinton as the next US president.

Don’t allow social media to become a substitute for living, she said. Social media was an ‘incredible tool’ but she added: ‘You don’t want to spend your entire life clicking and liking. I’m struck these days by how often people come up to me and ask to take a photograph, instead of shaking hands, meeting one’s eyes and having an actual conversation. Even at the (fashion) shows, people are so busy documenting the moment they forget to actually look at the clothes in front of them.’

Don’t seek fame she told her student audience. ‘To be famous these days with no grounding and no substance is not especially difficult,’ she said. ‘I urge you instead to seek to be relevant, to be agile and educated.’ Ms Wintour, whose uncle, Eric James, was York University’s first vice-chancellor, said she sometimes wished she had followed the intellectual route taken by most of her family but instead had gone straight into work at 17. ‘I was the one who went to work aged 17. It’s a path I sometimes regret when I see how my own children have made friends for life and how important the years they spent there were just to figure things out,’ she said.

She urged students to gain experience and training in their chosen fields but not to become too specialised. Watch and learn from the best and be self sufficient, she said. She held up Halifax-born fashion designer Christopher Bailey as a role model. ‘He does everything at Burberry,’ said Ms Wintour. ‘These days, in the world of media for instance, it is important to have multiple interests and skill-sets, to have tried and possibly failed at many different undertakings.’

Ellie WintourEllie Wintour

She said technology start-ups were hives of creativity and innovation, but even companies such as Condé Nast had been slow to catch up. ‘I’ll be the first to admit that we at Condé Nast have been guilty of arrogance – “we are Condé Nast; we’ve always done it this way,”’ she said. ‘We are so busy working at being the best, being perfect, we haven’t always be open to disruption, to new ways of thinking and that’s not good. But it’s very much changing, I’m happy to say. The young people we hire today at Conde Nast are fearless polymaths, hard-working and passionate, creative and curious.’

Ms Wintour, in a follow-up question and answer session with the Guardian’s editor-in-chief Katharine Viner, said she was confident Hillary Clinton would be the next president of the United States and her support was not ‘just because she is a woman…it’s because she’s the best choice’.

She said she felt Clinton’s campaign was strong enough to win her a place in the White House. ‘Of course it would be wonderful for Hillary Clinton to be the first female president, but I think she would be the first to say that she wouldn’t want people to vote for her just because she’s a woman,’ said Ms Wintour.

‘I think that’s a rather old fashioned way of thinking; people should vote for her because she’s the best choice. And if you look at who it is she’s running against, there’s no question that is the truth.’ Asked if she had any political aspirations herself, Ms Wintour said it was ‘not on my to-do list’.

 

The Northern Youth Fashion Show

Students from the University of York, the University of Sunderland, Leeds College of Art, Newcastle College, Hull College, the University of Central Lancashire, Liverpool John Moores University and Leeds Beckett University all took part.

They presented their collections in aid of Refugee Action York, which helps to integrate refugees locally and the Xavier Project which runs schools, creates jobs and offers a mentoring scheme to some of the biggest refugee communities in the world.

‘We wanted to host an event that would highlight the creative talent of students and support the community by fundraising for local charities,’ said Ellie Wintour. ‘It’s fantastic to have Anna and Katharine on board to help make it a success.’

She added: ‘York is a great fashion centre but I think everyone was a bit taken aback that Anna was coming. But there’s so much talent in Manchester, Leeds, York, I think it’s about time. Fashion is so London-centric.’

There were live performances from singer Billie Marten, Friendly Fires and Metronomy, collaborating for the first time especially for the fashion show, organised by HARD Magazine, a fashion publication at the University of York.

Ms Wintour commended the students for their involvement in their charity campaigns. She added: ‘I urge everyone here to remember how important it is, at whatever stage of life, to get outside of yourself and your own ambitions and to think about how to help those who are less fortunate.’

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