Not surprisingly, a conversation last night in New York between hotelier Jonathan Tisch and Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, who infrequently appears in public, began with a PETA protest.
PETA supporters shrieked and waved a banner from the balcony of the auditorium at the 92nd Street Y, where the conversation took place, when Wintour responded to Tisch's first question. The Y was evidently prepared for this, because its security guards immediately escorted the protesters out.
Wintour, who was barelegged and wore a floral sheath, yellow cardigan and tan sandals, took retailers to task for deeply discounting merchandise late last year, but said she thought such moves would not be repeated.
"When things started changing so dramatically last fall, there's no question that some of the retailers panicked. They had way too much stock that they didn't know how they were going to unload. There was, in my opinion, too much discounting. Nobody understood what their value was anymore," she said.
But, she added, "I think that that period is over. We had a meeting with seven of the biggest stores in New York just this week. There was no question that they feel that that time has passed, obviously they've bought much more carefully, they've invested much more carefully, and it doesn't pay for them to discount things. I don't think that we'll go back to the sort of panic situation that we saw over the Christmas months."
Asked by Tisch how she is keeping Vogue current, she said, "You have to remember exactly who you are and not panic. I don't think that Vogue should turn into Recession Weekly. But at the same time, I think we have to be very aware of what's going on in the world."
She denied the magazine's advertising executives influence its editorial content, stating "there's no pressure from the business side for editorial credits or being nice to an advertiser because we're a little bit worried about losing the business. There's no quid pro quo. We do not make the kind of special arrangements that we hear other people do."
Wintour said she is currently in "deep discussions about our online presence. We do have Vogue.com, which is currently partnered with Style.com, and we are planning to break out and make that our own next year."
She dodged Tisch's question about her job options post-Vogue, which was undoubtedly inspired by recent rumors that she would be replaced by her counterpart at French Vogue, Carine Roitfeld.
"Well, mostly I'm thinking about the next day. I think I have the best job in the entire world. To be honest, I don't think I'd be very good at anything else," she said.
And she addressed her public persona, created, in part, by The Devil Wears Prada. "I know I have a reputation for being such a tough boss," she said. "I also know that I've had many people working for me for almost as long as I've been at the magazine, which is over 20 years now. So I think that in some ways reflects that I may be tough; in some ways I think we all learn from each other."
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