Fashion is ridiculous, but fashion is a business: a serious, multi-billion dollar business and no one knows this better than Anna Wintour. She's been at the helm of American Vogue magazine for twenty years. Some may view her as "the ice queen, the devil in prada..." but what everyone can agree on is the very truth that she breathes fire into every issue of Vogue magazine.
The new documentary by R.J. Cutler, The September Issue takes viewers inside the editorial offices of Vogue magazine like never before. We can listen in on staff meetings and see the creative teams and editors come up with the spreads and proposals for the gigantic tome of fall fashion: Vogue's September issue.
From the get-go, we learn that Anna Wintour likes color and is never without her Starbucks. While her siblings may be, using her word, "amused" by what she does, Anna damn well knows what she's doing. She lives and breathes her magazine. Her weakness though, she tells the documentary crew, is "her children," namely her daughter, Bee Shaffer, who has no real interest in following her mother's high-heel steps into the fashion world.
However, if you want to see Anna spitting venom, you may be disappointed. In the film, Wintour gives you a peek at who she is and what Vogue's about, but she's not about to reveal too much. She lives by the cardinal rule: Less is more. At Vogue's offices, we see Anna gaze at the layouts and photo spreads of the issue as it comes to fruition like a film in which she has not only creative power, but final cut. She has no problem making up her mind or expressing her disapproval. Her strength, in fact, she says, is her "decisiveness." For her, it's all about business and never about emotions.
Thakoon Panichgul, a young fashion designer and prominent figure in the film, expresses his excitement and fear upon meeting Anna Wintour for the first time. During his presentation, he says that his hands never stopped shaking. At a press event, Wintour comes up to congratulate him [after getting him a gig with The Gap.] There is a sense of genuine warmth in her tone and even a smile and then she's gone. Some of his fashions even make the September issue. I doubt that Wintour reveals a soft spot here. She can recognize talent when she sees it. Again, business is what makes her heart beat.
It may be a surprise to even Anna Wintour herself, but The September Issue is not all about her. Instead, it becomes a story about passionate people and the creative process-- with a healthy dose of rivalry thrown in. There is no other magazine that can come close to touching the quality and artistry of Vogue's fashion editorial. Much of this credit goes not just to Wintour, but to Vogue's creative director, Grace Coddington. Grace, a former model herself, has been at Vogue for just as long as Wintour. Coddington and Wintour respect each other immensely, but both are equally stubborn in their own way. When many of Grace's photos are "thrown out," she's not at all afraid to make her opinions well-known, even expertly manipulating the documentary's film crew to get the scoop on Wintour's reactions to her latest photo spread. Coddington may well be one of the only people who can pull her own weight in the room with Wintour.
As Coddington remarked in the September issue of French Vogue: "Anna and I, we've known each other a long time....We have a real mutual respect for each other, even though sometimes I feel like killing her."
This spark, this rivalry, is the spine that holds The September Issue together. Wintour says that fashion is all about moving forward while Coddington looks to the past for inspiration in a markedly more romantic and passionate way. They have a certain understanding-- pushing and pulling and balancing each other. It is a necessary rivalry that, in essence, creates the perfect mix for Vogue.
Even if you have no interest in fashion, couture, or model runways, check out The September Issue. It's not just about spoiled fashion mavens, ex-models turned editors, or luxurious fabrics and couture that no one can afford: It's about quality, artistry, creativity, and the long and often difficult process that brings it all together.
Copyright 2009 by KLiedle