September 08, 2017 Sue Mowrer
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The September Issue: A Review

And Anna Wintour knows fashion. This September marks the 125th anniversary issue of Vogue. One out of 10 American women have this issue delivered to their homes; since it’s about the size of an old phone book, it makes you feel for the postal carriers.

“The September Issue” documentary will feel very familiar If you saw the movie “The Devil Wears Prada.” This film shows the real life, behind-the-scenes process of how the “bible” of the fashion world comes together.  ­­

Near the beginning of the movie, we see Andre Leon Talley, the 6’6” contributing editor at large, flamboyantly wearing a fur stole about his shoulders as he proclaims loudly “It’s been a famine of beauty, honey!  My eyes are starving for beauty!” while Vera Wang high fives him.

The primary focus is on Editor in Chief, Anna Wintour, legendary for her influence on what is “in” and what is “out.” She has an eye for what she likes that is as precise as her never-a-hair-out-of-place bob. And what she says, goes – end of story.

She’s often inscrutable as she reviews photo shoot layouts, nixing photo spreads and models without a blink of an eye. She visits couture designers in their studios for private, early showings of their latest couture collections. Even the most renowned designers seem to shake in their shoes a bit while waiting to see if she likes their work or not.

She makes editorial decisions with the surgical skill of a surgeon. It’s apparent that everyone working for Vogue recognizes her supreme authority. As the executive fashion director puts it, “It is always going to be Anna’s point of view. Vogue is Anna’s magazine. You belong to this church… Anna is the Pope.”

The film follows along as Anna and Grace sit in the front row of designer shows at NYC Fashion Week and Paris runway shows, Anna wearing her signature oversize black sunglasses. 

Another key player in the film is Grace Coddington, a Creative Director. Grace grew up in N. Wales, educated in a convent, who from an early age became swept away by fashion, sending away for Vogue, even though it took 3 months for it to arrive. It inspired her creative fantasies.  After being a model in London in the 60’s, she spent 19 years as Photo Editor for British Vogue, eventually coming to American Vogue in 1988, the same year that Anna began her tenure. 

An assistant editor says of Grace, “She is without question the greatest living stylist. There’s no one better.” Even Anna acknowledges, “Grace is a genius, she’s just remarkable.” 

What’s especially intriguing is the relationship between Grace and Anna. Both admit that they’ve very stubborn. Still, Grace challenges Anna when she feels strongly about something. Somehow, they’ve learned how to deal with each other’s point of view over the years. 

The amount of detail and preparation for the issue is impressive. There’s a lot of chaos and energy in the offices as everyone scrambles to get the issue just right. When Anna vetoes one spread five days before the issue is supposed to go to press, necessitating an emergency re-shoot, the tension is palpable. It struck me as slightly amazing that one woman could have such power in the industry. 

By film’s end, the September issue is complete, the biggest in its history. Happy Birthday, Vogue!

Available from Netflix on DVD, for rental via iTunes.

Want more Vogue? Check out  Ten Vogue “Firsts” here.

 

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