The September Issue – Film Review (BIFF)

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.

Anna Wintour

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.

6 Comments

  1. shraddha

    great review..i will check it out…

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Shraddha – I must admit that I’m a sucker for any kind of documentary which skillfully lets us into another person’s world, and I think The September Issue certainly succeeds in doing just that… I wouldn’t say that I’m a particularly fashionable or fashion-conscious person, but I certainly found the film a fascinating insight into that sometimes strange fashion ‘world’…

  2. jason

    although i find the “art” of fashion generally uninteresting , i find the business aspect fascinating. i wholeheartedly enjoyed the isaac misrai (sp?) documentary as well as robert altman’s “pret a porter” so looking forward to this as well. thanks –
    .-= jason´s last blog ..CHARLES MANSON & JOHN HUGHES: ONE ODD COUPLE =-.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Jason – In the past I’ve found that artistic view of fashion to be quite inaccessible, I just never really ‘got it’… and to be honest, I still don’t think I really get it.

      Like yourself, I do find the business side of such a creative environment interesting, and The September Issue certainly provides plenty of insight from that perspective. I have so many other wonderful documentaries to catch up on, I’m grateful also to The September Issue for reminding me of how much I enjoy watching those ‘fly-on-the-wall’ films…

  3. Ricardo

    The fashion industry seems so brutal and cutthroat. I mean for a world where things are based on looking pretty it can get pretty ugly. Did I ever tell you I met Georgio Armani?
    .-= Ricardo´s last blog ..Acting Like An Author By Raul Ramos y Sanchez =-.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Ricardo – I know, I just don’t think I’d survive very long in the fashion industry. It just seems so harsh and they really do seem to have a singular self-focus (which isn’t really my style). I most definitely enjoyed watching The September Issue, and it kind of made me glad that I’m not part of ‘that world’ … just happy to be an observer of it. 😉

      PS. And NO, you did not tell me that you once met Armani!!! That’s SO awesome!! … how did that happen? What was he like?? etc, etc.

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