Anna Wintour, as the editor-in-chief of Vogue for over 20 years, has become a one-woman legend in the fashion world. Like many incredibly successful fashion ‘legends’, Wintour tends to polarise people’s opinions of her. Some see her as a hard-nosed, uncompromising businesswoman who wields her incredible power to wrongly influence and shape the entire fashion industry. Others see her as an incredibly talented saviour of fashion, a strong supporter of up-and-coming new talent, a trend-spotter, or in other words, nothing less than a fashion institution.
The September Issue is a fascinating documentary which covers the lead-up to the production of the September 2007, 840 page, record-breaking, fall-preview issue of Vogue. While the film centres on Wintour, we gain a much wider perspective of who she is as a person through the eyes of her family and her work colleagues – in particular the insights provided by Grace Coddington, Vogue’s creative director, whose relationship with Wintour is filled with a very healthy dose of conflict and criticisim. Coddington is the creative genius to match Wintour’s tough business focus.
Aside from the influence she wields within the fashion industry, Wintour is almost instantly recognisable as a visual icon as well – with her sharp bob haircut and trademark oversized sunglasses (which she pretty much wears all the time), she is hard to miss. While Wintour is strongly rumoured to have been the inspiration for The Devil Wears Prada, the view of Wintour contained within The September Issue is one thousand times more complex, more impressive and quite simply just ‘more’ than the fictionalised account ever presented.
Throughout the film, Wintour shares her thoughts about other people’s views of the fashion industry, we see how she operates in meetings with legendary designers, photographers and new fashion talent, we watch how she interacts with her colleagues and family, and perhaps most importantly of all we see how much work is involved in editing and re-editing one of the most important issues of Vogue for the year. In one of those ironic contrasts, it often seems that most of the people working behind the scenes at magazines are far from being stylish themselves, and there are plenty of examples of this phenomenon within the Vogue offices. As for Wintour…well, she is the epitome of feminine style and classical elegance, though suprisingly she certainly isn’t one to simply opt for black at every occasion.
In watching The September Issue I feel that I’ve come to appreciate the ‘business of fashion’ a little more, as well as having a clearer picture of who Wintour is, and an understanding of the huge workload that the production of a magazine involves. The secondary story of this documentary for me was really watching the other side of the magazine’s production unfold from Coddington’s point of view. She leaves me with no doubt of her talent as a styling master and in awe of her gifted eye for creating inspired, jaw-droppingly beautiful fashion spreads. I feel privileged to have been let into the secretive world of Vogue and the lives of Wintour and Coddington, even if it was for just a short amount of time.
The September Issue is a great documentary on many levels, but for me the highlight was seeing the somewhat tempestuous and complex marriage of Wintour’s business focus and Coddington’s idealistic creative eye, which has come to represent what Vogue – and I suppose ultimately, what fashion – is all about.