[Writers note: this is a repost of on of my favorite articles from my old blog, please enjoy]
With much buzz and speculation about the new documentary by R.J. Cutler chronicling Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour’s preparations for the 2007 fall-fashion issue, I simply had to take a look. It all takes place within the framework of putting together the magazine’s September publication, traditionally the largest of the year–hence rightfully titled “The September Issue.”
I have to admit, much of my interest about this documentary came from my fascination with the film “The Devil Wears Prada” in which Wintour was fictionalized as Miranda Priestly– the cold, cutthroat, and always decisive editor-in-chief of Runway Magazine. Whether or not the story line and characters were based on real life people has never quite been confirmed by the original mind that inspired the film, author Lauren Weisberger, it’s hard to not notice the similarities; down to the uncanny resemblance Miranda Priestly’s office has to that of Anna Wintour’s real life Vogue office.
Taste in decor and bitchy demeanor aside, “The September Issue” is a more humanized look at life at a fashion magazine, and the work that goes into the creation of an issue–the biggest one of the year. It’s safe to say that there are some “…am I the only one attending this run-through?” and “Where is my Starbucks?” moments, however the film goes well beyond that. We see a look into Wintour’s huge extracurricular projects such as a fashion fund for up and coming American designers and a meetings with C.E.O.s of companies like Neiman Marcus to try and make the world of fashion and its people better. It shows the passion, dedication, and hard work that goes into the creation of fashion in as a whole.
Even more impressive is how vulnerable Wintour actually allows herself to be as she let cameras into her home life, and speaks openly about her father and siblings who she says are “…probably amused…” with her line of work. When producers asked her daughter if she would ever work for a magazine she responds with “…there are other things out there,” and refers to fashion as “a weird industry…” Wintour instead of opting to comment further tilts her head, simply smiles, shrugs, and looks to the side.
It’s safe to say that the look inside Vogue would not have been the same without Wintour’s colleauge, Grace Coddington. Coddington is the magazine’s creative director and is in charge of the majority of photo shoots. This former model—who worked at British Vogue and Calvin Klein before starting at American Vogue on the same day as Wintour—is often described as a “genius,” including by Wintour herself. Despite the show of appreciation there is and undeniable tension between the two. At one point in the film, Coddington counsels a junior editor who just endured one of Wintour’s infamous word lashings, “Don’t be too nice, not even to me, because you’ll lose. You have to beat your way through.” Evidently that’s just what Coddington has done. The feisty, flame-haired visionary admits that both she and Wintour are stubborn, adding, “I know when to stop pushing her…she doesn’t know when to stop pushing me.” One of the greatest scenes in the movie comes when the two share a long, awkward, silent elevator ride together on the way to visit Jean Paul Gaultier, saying only mere words to each other. One might think the only reason these two tolerate each other is for the magazine. However, there is a clear respect for one another.
From story boards, run-throughs, re-shoots, and edits its clear that fashion is never boring and hardly as dense as some might think it to be. There is much to be said about Anna Wintour and the fashion world. Some bash it others worship it. Despite all of that Wintour puts it best in saying, “Fashion is not about looking back, it’s about looking forward.”