(For brief strong language)
I know about as much about the world of fashion as The Pope knows about underground comics (that is to say not very much). About as close to the fashion world I got was with the rest of the world when Lauren Weisberger released her critically acclaimed (and in many cases just plain critical) “The Devil Wears Prada,” which in turn was transformed into a movie where Meryl Streep got her record breaking 13th Oscar nomination. Now there is a new documentary called “The September Issue” about the woman that inspired the antagonist in the aforementioned novel, Anna Wintour. Anna is the editor of Vogue Magazine, a position she’s held for over twenty years. Designers, photographers, and anyone who is anyone in the fashion industry fear her, for her word is law. And if you don’t believe me observe a scene in the movie involving a spread out for the September issue.
The shoot takes weeks to complete. It’s expensive. About $50,000 worth of work goes into this spread and most people at the magazine love it. Anna walks in, takes on look at it, and finds that the photos lack “texture” and kills the spread on the spot. Does anyone stop her, mention that too much money has been spent on the spread to simply ax it with one word? No, because what Anna wants Anna gets. The only person willing to push her a little is Grace, a partner editor who at one time was a model (but had to give that career up when her face was damaged in a car crash). She not only pushes Anna, but in some cases goes behind her back when she makes a decision that is less then favorable. Her main quibble is when Anna orders her Photoshop people to trim the stomach of a cameraman who has a pot belly.
Grace stops the Photoshop wizards before any changes are made, feeling that the models are already perfect looking and there’s no reason for the cameramen to look perfect as well. The movie stresses that September is THE month for fashion! Why this is the case is not delved into as much as I would have liked. The commercials claim that the main focus of the movie is the making of the magazine. To some extent this is true, but the camera is much more concerned with Anna herself. She’s developed a reputation for being a cold-hearted bitch who has little life in her. I didn’t find her to be purposefully cruel, but she is not cuddly. She’s got a coldness in her eyes. She takes fashion very seriously. She lives on instincts and to hell with the consequences.
Since Vogue has been the leader in fashion magazines I have to assume her instincts are correct. That aside though there is something odd about her deep obsession. At one point the camera goes to Anna’s house. We meet her daughter who - it appears - Anna isn’t anymore warmer with then her co-workers. When her daughter is prompted with the obvious question of whether she will follow in her mothers footsteps she laughs and says uncomfortably “I think fashion is a little silly.” I think that’s the second underlying reason this movie works: It’s interesting to see these people work. They do expensive shoots, spend thousands of dollars, all designing cloths. Some look good. Some do not. Most, I noted, don’t look like they can be reasonably worn in public. It’s such a strange world to look into. But they love it. And as there are people who love it I guess it shall always exist.
P.S. I want to note that the September issue of Vogue filmed in this movie is the 2007 issue, which clocked in at 840 pages and five pounds. Since then the magazine industry has taken a sharp downturn, and this years issue barely clocks in at 600 pages. A sign of the times perhaps?
What did you think of this review?