In a perfect storm of fashion catwalk and West End theatrics, Vogue’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, is planning a philanthropic arts extravaganza that she hopes will take over the world “in the way the Met Gala did” – while raising money for London’s struggling arts scene.
Featuring Naomi Campbell, Stormzy and Michaela Coel, alongside the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and the actor Sir Ian McKellen, the evening event will take place at London’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane, and include a red carpet outside, a catwalk show within, and live performances overseen by director Stephen Daldry.
The show, which is otherwise under wraps, will last under an hour. But unlike most fashion shows, it will be ticketed and open to the public, with all proceeds going to performing arts organisations in the capital, including the National Theatre, Royal Opera House and Rambert dance company.
Wintour said she had been prompted to donate profits after hearing of budget cuts last November. “I read with dismay about the amount of cuts that were happening around the performing arts,” she told the Guardian. “The creative talent in London is unparalleled, so anything we can do to support all those creatively brilliant people, we’ll do,” she said.
The editor-in-chief of British Vogue, Edward Enninful, agreed, citing “the post-Covid recovery and long term health of the arts” as a catalyst in a statement to the Guardian.
Wintour is considered the most powerful woman in fashion, and has form when it comes to arts philanthropy. In May she oversaw the Met Gala’s black tie annual fundraiser. The event, which also marks the opening of the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute exhibition, tends to drum up more coverage for its red carpet surprises and five-figure ticket prices. But the Costume Institute is the only one of the Met’s curatorial departments that has to fund itself.
Wintour said that philanthropy was not “the only solution – but it is a solution, certainly”.
British Vogue’s features director, Giles Hattersley, said: “Ultimately, a solution would be at a political level, but Vogue has an enormous power in this space.”
While both described Khan’s input as pivotal, Rishi Sunak is not involved. “We haven’t had that conversation so far,” Hattersley said.
The Vogue event will be held in September before London fashion week. London’s fashion scene has suffered since the pandemic, with banner names including Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and Victoria Beckham moving their shows to Paris, creating a noticeably truncated London schedule.
“Obviously that was on our minds, too,” Wintour said. “We wanted to put a spotlight on the fashion shows. We are incredibly supportive of the talent in London.”
But, she insisted, this was as much about theatre and tourism as it was fashion. “It’s why so many people go to London,” she added. Mark Guiducci, US Vogue’s creative editorial director, added that this was the purpose of the magazine: “Fashion doesn’t exist in a vacuum,” he said. “It needs a cultural context, and that’s what Vogue does.”
Wintour said she wanted the event to be inclusive and open to all, and some tickets – which start at £150 – would be given for free to students. “We’re inviting students, we are trying to make it as welcoming as we can.” It will also be livestreamed.
The show follows last September’s inaugural version, which took over a cobbled street in New York’s Meatpacking District, and opened with Serena Williams in a floor-length silver gown.
“We made the decision that as we were emerging from Covid that we wanted to do something that was not only supporting the fashion industry, but also the restaurant industry, the arts – life in general,” Wintour said. Like London, it was a response to the financial impact of the pandemic on the city’s wider culture, “and not just fashion”.
“I think, post-Covid, everyone just loves a live event,” said Wintour, who has been global chief content officer for Condé Nast since 2020. “It is important to us to be seen as global.” To that end, it will be livestreamed around the world, and next year, the plan is to take it to a major European city – most likely Milan or Paris – before moving to an Asian capital.
As a British-born journalist and editor living abroad, Wintour said she had a particular fondness for London theatre, and came back “as often as I can”. Asked if she will ever return to London, she said: “Mark [Guiducci] has already moved to London – and I’m not far behind.”