Anna Wintour tells York students: ‘Don’t let social media be a substitute for living’

Legend of journalism and fashion: Anna Wintour at the Northern Youth fashion show in York. Photographs: Chloe Gaughan
30 Jan 2016 @ 12.46 pm
| Charity, News

“The most powerful woman in fashion – and she’s here in York!”

That’s how another towering media figure, Guardian editor-in-chief Katharine Viner, introduced Anna Wintour to a packed York audience on Friday night (January 30).

As US editor of Vogue since July 1988, and with an OBE awarded for her dedication to fashion and journalism, Anna is a legend in both fields.

And when she took to the stage she was met with cheers and gasps from the audience at York University’s Central Hall.

In a two-piece jacket and skirt, Anna radiated an air of confidence which few in the packed auditorium would have experienced before.

Here for a talk and Q&A at the sell-out Northern Youth fashion show, much of her message was aimed at students, and how best they could exert their influence on a fast-changing world.

‘Clicking and liking’

‘Be self sufficient and intellectually free’… Anna Wintour at York University
‘Be self sufficient and intellectually free’… Anna Wintour at York University

She urged audience members to “be self sufficient” and “intellectually free” and to “not close your minds to other callings: embrace change”.

Acknowledging that social media was “an incredible tool” she sounded a warning.

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 shows, people are so busy documenting the moment, they forget to actually look at the clothes in front of them.

Social media is great but don’t let it be a substitute for living.

Fashion legend’s style advice

Anna and Guardian editor-in-chief Katharine Viner
Anna and Guardian editor-in-chief Katharine Viner
Anna delivered straight answers to audience questions
Anna delivered straight answers to audience questions

“Knowing how to do a little bit of everything: rather than being narrow headed” is now crucial in the ever so competitive job market that is constantly changing.

She preached how “now more than ever there is a true generation gap”.

Anna also endorsed Hillary Clinton for the US presidency, not because she is a woman, but because “she’s the best choice”.

Katharine Viner, who was raised in Yorkshire and went to Ripon Grammar School, led the Q&A session before Anna took audience questions.

Wintour held nothing back and answered questions as honestly as possible. One person asked: “How would you suggest you cultivate your own style?”, to which she replied – “Look in the mirror.”

Amazing and supportive

Rapt: the audience at the Northern Youth show
Rapt: the audience at the Northern Youth show

Before the event Ellie Wintour, Anna’s niece and one of the main organisers of the event, said: “Anna has been so amazing and supportive.

“We have been in contact a lot and she has been asking how it is going all the time. I just asked if she would be able to come, and after lots of checking of her schedule, she said she’d make it.

“I see her about once a year at Christmas, so this is going to be like a huge family gathering. All my family will be here.”

Music and fashion came together on stage
Music and fashion came together on stage

Another organiser, Florence Mitchell, said the Northern Youth fashion show was all about “the collaboration and creative opportunity from the north. Everything together is so special.

“We are so thankful to Anna for coming, and with her, bringing so much more publicity.

“She brings a sense of prestige with her, which legitimises the whole reason we are doing this.”

Showcase of Northern creativity

Did any of the designs catch Miss Wintour's eye?
Did any of the designs catch Miss Wintour’s eye?

The show showcased work fashion from independent and student designers as well as work from a number of Northern artists.

The catwalk was soundtracked by music from Jack Savidige from Friendly Fires and Gbenga from Metronomy. They also played an exclusive track never before heard by the public.

Billie Marten, a 17-year-old singer songwriter from North Yorkshire, played two tracks on stage and has been cited as “one to watch” by BBC Introducing.

The Northern Youth fashion show was in aid of Refugee Action York, the Xavier Project, Two Ridings Community Foundation and York Foodbank.

There was a raffle and silent auction at the end of the night, with a signed Roger Federer tennis racket as star prize.