With the creation of popular television shows like Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model, and the immensely popular film “The Devil Wears Prada” the general population’s interest in the fashion world has skyrocketed. That interest seems to all lead back to one person and one organization: Anna Wintours, editor of Vogue Magazine.
“The September Issue,” the documentary about Ms. Wintours and her staff putting together the notoriously spectacular September Issue of Vogue, offers an unprecedented inside of view at the powerful, influential, and yet human, world of fashion. As fast paced as the fashion world itself, the film flashes footage of the stars of the fashion world as though they were peons in comparison to Anna Wintours. These people – people like Vera Wang, for example – that have the reputation of being larger than life, work for her. She makes the final decisions on the what, who, and when of fashion. These decisions fit into the fast paced nature of the film, as Wintours makes quick rejections of models and designs all day long.
This is a world of frivolity, and Wintours acknowledges that perspective. After pointing out the silly reputation that the fashion industry has, the film gives us examples with people seriously stating that “the jacket is the new coat” and that a poofy, feather covered jumper is “heaven.” That acknowledgement out of the way, the film revels in the industry, making Wintours out to be tough but fair and extremely intelligent, and her office to be hardworking above all else.
It is when the film steps outside of the fashion world, however, that it is most compelling. Moments between Wintours and her daughter are particularly insightful when it is revealed how much she respects her young daughter’s opinions while the rest of the industry can suck it. Likewise, an interview where Wintours reveals some uncertainty at her families’ opinions of her work creates a wonderful character arc that is so often absent in documentary film.
The film also focuses on Wintours’s creative director, Grace Coddington, the fabulous and fashion obsessed ex-model turned artist. It was Grace who convinced me that this industry is worth examining closer. Wearing the same black smock in nearly every shot, Grace takes the dressing and photographing of the body of others to a high art. She is stubborn and opinionated just like Wintours, but she warms up to the camera quickly, expressing her frustrations seemingly to get her way with Anna.
“The September Issue” is a wonderful film, and one with vast appeal. Giving us everything we have come to expect from our fashion-centered programming and more, we are left with the sense that we have uncovered a mystery. While the runway may lose some of its magic in the process, it is also more respected and humanized: a nice change for such a silly, silly world.