Thursday, October 15, 2009

The September Issue

Tonight I saw The September Issue, a documentary that follows famed Vogue editor Anna Wintour in the months leading up to—well—a September issue.

The year is 2007. The financial bubble has yet to burst and excess is exactly what the magazine is going for as they try to break their record for the most pages (they did, with over 800).

Designers, stylists, photographers, models, a celebrity (Sienna Miller, the cover subject) and even the poor documentarian making this film are scrutinized, degraded and scoffed at throughout by the Queen Bee of Fashion. For such a petite lady, she does pack quite a punch.

As the most prominent designers from the biggest fashion houses in the world show their newest lines to her, she looks bored. She tells one he doesn't have enough color and another that there isn't any "evening" in his set.

Little do they know, right?

Having worked in the fashion industry for eight years, none of what happened on screen was the least bit shocking to me, but it did serve as a reminder of what a negative business 'pretty clothing' really is.

What's most interesting in the film is the dynamic between Wintour and legendary stylist Grace Coddington (who has been at the magazine just as long, and began her career as a model). They snip and snark at each other both privately and publicly, then reluctantly administer mutual praise as if they know they should. Both ladies are forces to be reckoned with, and one gets the sense that the combination of their personalities and tastes may be what makes the end product work.

As far as documentaries go, I would register it on the weak side. The director didn't ever bring Anna out of her comfort zone, so we don't see anything that we don't expect to see. Really, the most revealing thing we learn is that Anna has an incredibly pleasant daughter who seems to want nothing to do with the fashion industry.

The conversation about Anna's siblings thinking her profession was trite could've made for wonderful cinema. But all we got was a soundbite.


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