This past Friday, new and old members of the BARE magazine team got together and drove all the way to a little theater in Albany to watch the highly-anticipated VOGUE documentary entitled The September Issue. For those newbie fashionistas out there, The September Issue, directed by R.J. Cutler (who also happened to produce another movie covering Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, so you know this is no Hannah Montana, Disney sweetness and sugar production) gives outsiders an inside look into the production of the American Vogue September issue, considered by many to be the “bible of the fashion world”. As if that weren’t tantalizing enough, the documentary also promises to crack the impeccable shell of Anna Wintour, or, as some may know her, the devil who wore Prada.
Previews for The September Issue show shot after shot of Anna Wintour, Editor in Chief of Vogue and queen bee of the fashion universe, glaring, frowning, glaring, occasionally giggling, and, did I mention, glaring, at her well-dressed minions. (The various types of stares this woman can deploy are really quite impressive. They are like the real life versions of Derek Zoolander’s Magnum and Blue Steel…except no one will be laughing when they see them.) Indeed, one of the most entertaining, and pitiful, scenes in the movie is one where Stefano Pilati, the designer of French powerhouse Yves Saint Laurent, stumbles and stutters through an attempt to convince a glaring Ms. Wintour that a questionable black jacket is really green. Hopeful successors of Anna take note—the woman does not like black! But even after all of this hype and seeing the movie, my image of Anna Wintour has stayed pretty much the same. Rare glimpses into her personal and family life soften the icy stares, but for some reason or another Anna Wintour wishes to preserve her mysterious persona…for now anyway.
Anna Wintour’s inability to raise our empathy, however, is more than made up for by the vivacious and witty Grace Coddington. Vogue’s creative director, who also happened to start working the same day as Ms. Wintour did, is without a doubt the tragic hero of this entire documentary. Coddington, with her wild mane of red hair, is like a lioness defending her cubs; except in this case the cubs are gorgeous photographs from photoshoots that she has styled herself. In an age where everyone seems to value efficiency above everything, Grace Coddington is like a romantic piece of antique jewelry, brightening and completing an otherwise plain outfit by insisting that everything be absolutely beautiful. You can’t help but mourn as Ms. Wintour heartlessly slashes more and more pages from Coddington’s spreads. Indeed, it is the tension between these two extremely powerful and single minded women that creates the dynamic force in the film, especially since it is clear that both begrudgingly respect the other.
For viewers hoping to get a glimpse into the aesthetic aspect of Vogue—the gorgeous clothes, the models, the dreamy travel destinations—and the creative forces behind them will be rather satisfied, if not highly entertained, by this tastefully done documentary. But beware: this is not a movie about marketing, layout, or even journalism. It is fashion with a little bit of the fierce Anna Wintour which has made Vogue one of the most successful magazines ever published.
What did you think about The September Issue?