LONDON, United Kingdom — Bootlegged copies of The September Issue have been circulating amongst fashion insiders in London. The new 90 minute documentary featuring Anna Wintour of American Vogue is not due to hit U.S. and U.K. theatres until later this Summer, but it is already providing much fodder for industry conversations over mid-Summer cocktails and pre-collection appointments.
The film revolves around the development, execution and advertising sales for the September 2007 issue of US Vogue, an 840 page tome featuring Sienna Miller in a feathered Marchesa dress on its cover and reaching almost 13 million people. Anna Wintour carves a clear path throughout the film, with a singular vision for her magazine. Industry luminaries young and old tremble in her presence, as she serves up her trademark quick, clear, sharp feedback to designers, businessmen and editors alike.
Stefano Pilati, the Creative Director of Yves Saint Laurent questions his collection based on Wintour’s feedback and stylist Edward Enninful exclaims “I wanna kill myself,” after a meeting with his notoriously demanding boss. American ingenue designer Thakoon Panichgul admits that his hands couldn’t stop shaking during his first meeting with Anna and even heavyweight fashion photographer Mario Testino feels the wrath of nuclear Wintour when he fails to deliver an image she was expecting of Sienna Miller outside the ancient Roman Colosseum.
But Wintour also comes across as slightly misunderstood by an industry that paints her as evil and scheming. Rather, she simply does what she thinks is best and is singularly focused on her professional output and achieving her vision. Whether you agree with the vision is a different story, but as an operator, she runs a tight ship and achieves the results she wants.
At one point in the film, Burt Tansky, the Chairman of Neiman Marcus, even asks for Wintour’s help in dealing with the poor deliveries of designer fashion brands. “We are waiting longer and longer for deliveries,” he says. Wintour responds that the problem is that many designers just need to do more editing. There is too much product. “Less is more,” she declares, well before the economic meltdown which hit the industry one year later.
The foil to Wintour’s more commercial approach to editing Vogue is the magazine’s Creative Director, Grace Coddington, who slowly reveals her endearing passion for fashion through honest interviews peppered throughout the movie. The 20 year Vogue veteran started in front of the camera before a car accident ended her modeling career leading her to British Vogue where she was junior editor. Coddington comes at fashion from different angle than Wintour, completing the creative partnership that lies at the heart of the most powerful fashion magazine in the world. The tension between them is also part of the magazine’s success.
“I never dreamt to be a model or never, never dreamt to be a fashion editor, but I just love the pages and the pictures,” she says, looking out on the grand boulevards of Paris during the Couture. Remembering Norman Parkinson, the legendary fashion photographer, she adds “he taught me to always keep your open and never go to sleep the car. Keep watching because whatever you see out the window…it can inspire you.”
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Imran Amed is Editor of The Business of Fashion.