Saturday, October 13, 2012

DVD Documentary: The September Issue (2009)

This documentary follows editor in chief, Anna Wintour, in 2007, as she and her staff prepare for the largest-ever edition of the September issue of Vogue magazine. Typically over 13 million women buy the September magazine, mainly for it's unique approach at presenting upcoming fashion trends.

The September Issue provides brief sketches of Anna Wintour and her fashion editor, Grace Coddington, who joined her at American vogue in 1988. Anna's father was a newspaper editor who had a very Victorian upbringing. Anna became interested in fashion during her teens and it was her father who decided she should work in fashion. She stated during the documentary that her two brothers and sisters are amused by what she does and don't view her job as a serious one. Anna has two children, a daughter and a son, neither of whom has any interest in working in the business.

Grace Coddington came to Vogue via a different route. While a teenager on the small Welsh island of Anglesey, Grace too became interested in fashion. She was entered in a modeling contest and won, and this is how she began modeling for Vogue. Unfortunately, her face was damaged in a serious car accident and she left modeling to become an editor with British Vogue. She eventually came to American Vogue after working for designer, Calvin Klein, in the late 1980's.

The September Issue follows Anna as she attends fashions shows in Paris and views new collections all towards deciding on which trends to feature in the magazine. During this time, they also look at up-and-coming designers such as Thakoon Panichgul, a designer who was working on a line for Gap after being mentored and promoted by Wintour.

The cover face for the September 2007 issue is to be actress, Sienna Miller. Anna realized early on that celebrity culture was becoming a more important part of fashion and that it could be used to sell magazines. People were interested in what celebrities wore as well as their personal lives. At one time, models such as Cheryl Tieg and Cindy Crawford were the face of fashion covers. Not so anymore. Actresses and singers such as Lady Gaga have now largely replaced them.

Parts of The September Issue focus on Anna Wintour's famous aloof and reticent personality. In truth, we see a more little of who she really is and what she is really like. Although she certainly doesn't exude warmth, Anna is seen as a serious, intense person, who in fact does sometimes smile and who definitely knows her work. There are shots of her meeting with staff in her office, viewing Polaroids of photo spreads in her typical critical manner, but often the camera is kept at a distance.The scenes of her discussing her work with daughter, Bea, provide a human perspective to woman once nicknamed, "Nuclear Wintour".

Wintour is of course, largely believed to be the inspiration for the cold fashion director in the book, The Devil Wears Prada, written by her former assistant, Lauren Weisberger. The book was made into a movie of the same name, which did well at the box office.

Instead, we are given a much more intimate view of the work that Grace Coddington does. Grace exudes a warmth that extends to even the cameraman shooting the documentary. She puts together the fashion shoots, which try to tell a story, often in a whimsical way, while featuring the latest fashion trends. To her dismay, some shoots are almost completely withdrawn, other times, she wins and her creations make it into the magazine.

I haven't looked at a Vogue Magazine in over 25 years. I stopped reading this magazine in my late teens because the photo spreads were often highly sexual, likely the result of the work of Helmut Newton, who is mentioned in the documentary as being a photographer who often demanded his models make love to the camera. I took home the September 2012 issue and was pleasantly surprised by Grace Coddington's incredible craftmanship. Her unique photographic spreads, which are now the standard for fashion magazines, are definitely a form of art. Vogue Magazine is more like a giant fashion picture book than anything else, although I have to say that I found some of the articles interesting too!

If you like fashion, and if you like Vogue Magazine, you will enjoy The September Issue, directed by R.J. Cutler. One interesting thing I did note, was that Anna did make the decision to photoshop Sienna Miller's smile for the cover because it was deemed too large!

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