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The September Issue

2010-01-12 09:05

What it's about:

An unprecedented look at the behind the scenes goings on at the New York offices of Vogue, as enigmatic editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and her staff compile the magazine's biggest and most anticipated edition of the year – the fall-fashion September issue.

What we thought:

The Devil Wears Prada and Ugly Betty have gone some way in giving fashion slaves a look into the sleek and stressful world of glossy magazine publishing. Yes, in this business, tempers tend to be short while the working hours are long and arduous. From the outside it might seem glamorous, but it's not so much fun working at Vogue - if your name's not Anna Wintour.

What The September Issue provides is a gripping look into the office politics and day-to-day drudgery of working on an iconic symbol of prestige and cool, with Wintour as the grand "Pope" of fashion (as one staffer refers to her) leading her charges through this wonderful world of colour and culture. Throughout, Wintour remains as aloof and inscrutable as her perfect coiffure and ubiquitous dark shades suggests.

During her one-on-one interviews on camera, she lays out the realities of her fanciful world with little emotion, and only gives a glimpse into her heart when she and her teenage daughter look through back issues of Vogue. To see Wintour unclench and look at her child with such warmth and love is worth the ticket price alone. Although it is also deliciously thrilling to see head designers from Yves St Laurent and Jean-Paul Gaultier wither under Wintour's dismissive verdict on their latest collections.

But what The September Issue explores with entertaining ease is the dynamic between Wintour and her flame-haired creative director, Grace Coddington - for all intents and purposes, the angel of this story. Coddington is unassuming and candid, where Wintour is decisive and calculating and somehow the two have managed to co-exist as colleagues and friends for the past 20 years. Coddington's impeccable vision for each photoshoot is like watching a master artist at work. And so it is especially heart-rending to watch as she learns of the many hours of work that is rejected by Wintour during the production of the magazine. Coddington is the kindly aunt we all wish we had, and she is also, as Wintour herself puts it, a genius at what she does. One almost gets the feeling that Coddington's talents are being under-used at the magazine.

Wintour is credited with foreseeing the emergence of film celebrities as cover stars, signalling the end of the Age of the Supermodel. And so actress Sienna Miller is roped in as the issue's cover star, and is whisked off to Rome with famed photographer Mario Testino. The magazine staff are less than impressed with either's work. Sienna's hair is deemed a "disaster" and Testino seems to have gone off brief with a few key shots.

But it all, somehow, comes together. After months of tears, tensions and terse meetings, the biggest issue (at 840 pages) is birthed, and the various assistants, editors and creatives have little time to celebrate before buckling down to do it all over again for the October issue.

The documentary offers fascinating insight into a world whose truths are obscured by the beauty and perfection it strives to convey and is a must-see for anyone who has ever gazed wonderingly at a magazine fashion spread or pretended to be cool.

A documentary chronicling Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour's preparations for the 2007 fall-fashion issue.

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keith grant collocott 2010-01-12 12:30 PM
Having recently, by chance, picked up a copy of Cosmopolitan (that must have taken a whole tree to pulp for just one copy) and finding zero, yes ZERO, worhwhile in the entire issue I can only imagine how bereft of any value this issue of Vogue might be. Sound advice that (from I forget who - Baz Lehman?) "fashion and beauty mags should be avoided they will only make you feel ugly"

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