A quick scan of the crowd of twittering girls and gay men, and it was pretty clear that I was in the right cinema. The September Issue was my second frock-fest of the week – this time, a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the hallowed temple of American Vogue and a portrait of its high priestess, the magazine’s editor Anna Wintour.
This engaging movie takes us on the trials and trantrums involved in producing Vogue’s September 2007 issue, the largest magazine ever published. You follow Wintour and her team as they meet a roll-call of high end designers (Lagerfeld! Gaultier! Yves St Laurent!), shoot models in Baroque palaces and Jazz Age cafes, flick through racks of delectable designers clothes and discuss what to do about Sienna Miller’s teeth on the cover. Anna was immaculately groomed in every shot, with her helmet-like bobbed hair and various shapely shift dresses, while the rest of the office seemed to be staffed exclusively by high-heeled gazelles and flamboyant gay men.
In the film you really get a sense of Wintour being as cool as her name. It’s not that she’s nasty, she just doesn’t do warm and bubbly and friendly. She views herself as the producer and director of the worldwide fashion industry and as a result she’s direct, efficient and expects perfection from everyone around her, even the doco cameraman with a bit of a paunch who she advises should hit the gym. It’s surprising that she gave permission for cameras to follow her, as she struck me as someone with a steely reserved nature. The only brief moment of vulnerability was when she recalled that her equally high flying siblings, such as the political editor of the Guardian Patrick Wintour, considered her work ‘amusing’. Even her own fashionable daughter wants to go to law school instead of following Anna into the industry, as she believes that there is more to life than fashion.
Th eother key character in the film was Grace Coddington, the creative director who started at Vogue on the same day as Anna. You can tell that the women respect each other immensely but they don’t always see eye to eye and are both stubborn. Grace is probably the only person in the office who would have the nerve to stand up to Anna – everyone else, from her staff, designers and photographers, all stammered and shuffled under her cool gaze or a tiny purse of her lips.
The September Issue is an interesting study on the power and influence of one woman over a worldwide industry and a portrait of what it takes to be a successful businesswoman in the cut-throat world of fashion and publishing. It’s more than a 90 minute catwalk show.