A Win­tour’s Tale

Ru­mours of her re­tire­ment raise the ques­tion “Should I stay or should I go?”

ZOOMER Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Shi­nan Go­vani

tHE YEAR THAT Anna Win­tour be­came ed­i­torin-chief of Vogue, the late, great Stephen Hawk­ing pub­lished A Brief His­tory of Time. If that isn’t a cos­mic me­mento – as Win­tour marks her 30th re­mark­able year as head chieft­ess of the fash­ion world’s bi­ble – then what, pray tell, is?

Other things that hap­pened back in 1988: Ge­orge H.W. Bush beat Michael Dukakis in the U.S. pres­i­den­tial sweep­stakes, the movie Rain Man swept into the­atres and Bobby McFer­rin mirth­fully set forth the ad­vice, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” For Cana­di­ans it was the dark mo­ment in our his­tory when Wayne Gret­zky was traded to the Los An­ge­les Kings.

The sheer stay­ing power of Win­tour – “she does not put a fin­ger to the wind to judge trends; she is the wind,” as David Carr once de­scribed it in the New York Times – is so acute, i.e., that the mere ru­mour of her leav­ing her post last spring sent shock­waves, un­sur­pris­ingly, through the Twit­ter­verse.

But then, just as quickly, ar­rived a philo­soph­i­cal shrug, at least from some quar­ters: wasn’t it ... well ... per­haps ... time?

In ad­di­tion to it spurring an ex­is­ten­tial con­ver­sa­tion about swan

songs and exit ramps, the main cal­cu­lus that leapt into peo­ple’s minds was this: th what else is left for some­one like li a Win­tour to do, any­way? Beyon Be­yond hav­ing long ex­er­cised her own “grav­i­ta­tional “force field,” as fashio fash­ion critic Vanessa Fried­man has writte writ­ten – “mag­ne­tized by strate­gi­cally d de­ployed in­vi­ta­tions, in­tro­duc­tions, mag­a­zine fea­tures and mes­sages of sup­port” in all the vis­i­ble/ in­visi in­vis­i­ble ways she in­flu­ences what we see and per­ceive. And she is not only an axis point in the Hol­ly­wood-sports-fash­ion ecosys­tem, has had her name it­self splashed on a wing at the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Mu­seum of Art (based on her mega-chore­og­ra­phy of the an­nual Met Gala) but is, more­over, for­ever en­trenched in the ducts of pop cul­ture, cour­tesy of the ho­cus-pocus-ery of Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada.

What, in­deed?

To go or not to go: that is of­ten the ques­tion for any­one in a big ca­reer, a prom­i­nent post but ac­cen­tu­ated even fur­ther when the klieg lights of fame come into the equa­tion. I like to think of it as a choice be­tween either the Mar­garet Mitchell model or the Robert Mu­gabe model. Stay with me now.

The for­mer is an archetype personified by the woman who only pub­lished one novel in her life­time – but what a novel it was. Eighty-two years hence, her Gone with the Wind re­mains not only one of the most iconic pieces of Amer­i­cana ever put to print, but it’s one that also in­spired one of cin­ema’s most beloved films, too. Once Mitchell did it, she did it, in other words. Never out­stayed her wel­come. Never at­tempted to outdo her­self. Only sus­tained more dura­bil­ity via the halo of her mys­tique.

Mu­gabe, on the hand, sits on the other side of the ledger: hold­ing onto power in the African na­tion of Zim­babwe for an as­ton­ish­ing 37 years, mak­ing him one of the long­est serv­ing world lead­ers in his­tory. His im­age ef­fec­tively has gone from that of an African in­de­pen­dence hero to one of an au­thor­i­tar­ian tyrant – time fi­nally caught up with him last year when he was ousted by his own mil­i­tary in what was es­sen­tially a blood­less coup. Ninety-three years old then and a state pariah, he’d be­come a primo ex­am­ple of hav­ing out­stayed one’s wel­come.

Be more Mitchell than Mu­gabe, one would like to humbly sug­gest.

It’s a les­son that Ru­dolph Gi­u­liani, the erst­while mayor of New York City, could have ab­sorbed bet­ter when he re­turned to the spot­light a few months back as Don­ald Trump’s per­sonal lawyer – hit­ting the air­waves with such a vengeance it al­most seemed like a Sea­son 1 char­ac­ter out of the never-end­ing Trump re­al­ity show, re­turn­ing hun­grily for a Sea­son 2 arc. There might have been a price to pay for his scald­ing-hot rhetoric while mak­ing his

me­dia rounds, how­ever, as ex­em­pli­fied by the very spe­cific re­ac­tion he got when he at­tended a Yankees game on his birth­day this year: the man once lauded as “Amer­ica’s mayor” for his han­dling of 9/11 was the ob­ject of a wide cho­rus of boos from the New York­ers in the stands.

Cling­ing to the lime­light can clearly have its com­pli­ca­tions. Know­ing when to en­ter and when to va­moose, among other things.

Closer to home, here in Canada, bil­lion­aire W. Galen We­ston set­tled on a sun­set strat­egy that struck a note bor­der­ing on the poignant. Giv­ing up his post as ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of Ge­orge We­ston Ltd., the mega-food pro­cess­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion com­pany founded by his grand­fa­ther in 1882, at pre­cisely the age of 75 in 2016, he said in a state­ment: “Fol­low­ing my own fa­ther’s tra­di­tion of step­ping down at the age of 75, I see this as a good time to cre­ate space for the next gen­er­a­tion.”

In­deed, his son, Galen Jr., promptly took his place in the po­si­tion.

The sub­ject of busi­ness hand-medowns is such a ripe one for our times that it even in­forms the shrewd new HBO se­ries, Suc­ces­sion. The story of a pow­er­ful me­dia baron whose chil­dren jockey for con­trol of the em­pire (even as he re­sists), it owes its nar­ra­tive DNA to a very spe­cific clan: sev­eral years ago, co-cre­ator Jesse Arm­strong wrote a screen­play ti­tled Mur­doch that imag­ined mogul Ru­pert Mur­doch’s fam­ily gath­er­ing for his 78th birth­day. The screen­play made the rounds in Hol­ly­wood but was never pro­duced.

Ex­plained fel­low exec pro­ducer Adam Mackay to Va­ri­ety, “What ex­cited me about Jesse’s script is that it wasn’t about one fam­ily. It’s more about the ques­tion of what hap­pens when this kind of power is handed down through blood­lines. How does that af­fect the world around it?”

A scene that crys­tal­lizes the gen­er­a­tional ooze in Suc­ces­sion is one that hap­pens in Episode 5 of the show when dur­ing a busi­ness meet­ing, the mogul played by Brian Cox, blurts out, “Why shouldn’t we do all the news?” to which his chil­dren use the op­por­tu­nity to ques­tion his judg­ment. One of his sons even jok­ing calls him “Kim Jong-Pop,” sug­gest­ing it might be un­wise to seek a mo­nop­oly on con­tent in the age of the dig­i­tal age. At the same meet­ing, their fa­ther fails to stop pour­ing a cup of cof­fee – a mo­ment that not only works as metaphor but is also a sug­ges­tion that he might be suf­fer­ing from de­men­tia.

Back in the all-too-real cir­cles of high fash­ion, none other than Carolina Her­rera stepped down af­ter nearly 40 years at the helm of her epony­mous la­bel, fol­low­ing a show held in New York just this past Fe­bru­ary. As of that mo­ment, she was slip­ping into a new job in her com­pany as global brand am­bas­sador, clear­ing the way for a pro­tégé, Wes Gor­don, to step into the shoes of cre­ative di­rec­tor.

“Just don’t say I am re­tir­ing,” the 79-year-old in­sisted at the time, with a dis­mis­sive wave, adding, “I am not re­tir­ing! I am mov­ing for­ward.”

That’s at the nucleus of it all, isn’t it? Vi­vian Diller, a renowned psy­chol­o­gist who has writ­ten on the sub­ject of ag­ing and ca­reers, per­haps put it best when she wrote: “As we are liv­ing longer lives, ea­ger to re­main vi­tal and ac­tive well into our 70s, 80s and even 90s, we also have to learn how to let go. We have to know when it’s time to mourn the loss of who we once were. We have to let go of as­pects of our iden­ti­ties tied to our youth to make room for oth­ers to de­velop. If we learn to move on, we can pass the torch to the next gen­er­a­tion yet stay in­volved and en­gaged in ways that have mean­ing for the rest of our lives.”

The more I think about it, the only way to leave a post with any real el­e­gance, I think, might be to take in­spi­ra­tion from the “French exit,” other­wise known as the “Ir­ish good­bye” – two dif­fer­ent terms riff­ing on the same time-hon­oured con­cept of leav­ing a so­cial gath­er­ing with­out go­ing through the rig­ma­role of bid­ding farewell. “One mo­ment you’re at the bar or the house party or the Sun­day morn­ing wed­ding brunch,” as a primer in Slate once ex­trap­o­lated, “the next mo­ment you’re gone. In the man­ner of a ghost. ‘Where’d he go?’ your friends might won­der. But – and this is key – they prob­a­bly won’t even no­tice that you’ve left.”

While some might deem this prac­tice as some­what rude, the writer at Slate ar­gued, “Is it re­ally so bad to bounce with­out fan­fare? We all agree it’s fun to say hello. A hello has the bright prom­ise of a be­gin­ning. It’s the per­fect oc­ca­sion to ex­press your gen­uine plea­sure at a friend’s ar­rival. But who among us en­joys say­ing good­bye? ... Good­byes are, by their very na­ture, at least a mild bum­mer. They rep­re­sent the wan­ing of an evening or event. By the time we get to them ... these sorts of good­byes in­evitably de­volve into awk­ward small talk that lasts too long and then peters out. We vow vaguely to meet again, then linger for a mo­ment, think­ing of some­thing else we might say be­fore the whole ex­change fiz­zles and we shuf­fle apart ...”

Us­ing a party as metaphor, why not just see to one’s leave with­out go­ing through the lugubri­ous kabuki of good­bye?

Be­cause, as the Win­tours of this world know all too well, a last im­pres­sion can be just as im­por­tant as a first.


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