R.J. Cutler has crafted a subversively entertaining documentary detailing the blood, sweat and tears Vogue editor Anna Wintour exacted from her staff to produce the mammoth 2007 issue of the fashion Bible. It’s all pre-economic collapse, meaning we get to watch the fashionably rich enjoy their privileges while everyone else, well, let them eat cake. For a while, the movie seems all delicious frosting with the British Wintour captaining her ship of fashion with style and — given the way her family sniffs at her allegedly frivolous job — defensive grace. But the real grace here belongs to Grace Coddington, Vogue‘s creative director who hasn’t let the romance of fashion drain out of her despite pressures from the great God of advertising. In fact, watching Coddington play yin to Wintour’s yang proves lively and instructive. All lasting magazines, including this one, reflect the battle between church and state, edit and advertising, art and commerce. Wintour steers a tight ship. Coddington reminds her that Vogue has a history based on something more than profit. In the end, they’re a winning combination. As for cynics who throw stone at the empty “stuff” of fashion, listen to this speech:
“This… ‘stuff’? Oh… OK, I see, you think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select out, oh I don’t know, that lumpy blue sweater, for instance, because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise, it’s not lapis, it’s actually cerulean. You’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar De La Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves St Laurent, wasn’t it, who showed cerulean military jackets. And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic casual corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and so it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room. From a pile of stuff.”
Great speech. Sadly, it’s not from The September Issue, but the hit movie The Devil Wears Prada, delivered by Meryl Streep as a fashion editor modeled on Wintour. Still, if the shoe fits.