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'The September Issue': Ice Queen Reported Missing

Filed under: The Squib Report   Tagged: , , , , , , , , , ,

Martin Schneider writes:

I just watched The September Issue, the documentary about Vogue and Anna Wintour. I must say it surprised me a lot. It's very, very enjoyable, and anyone who likes fashion or magazines really ought to see it. (On the subject of magazines, I think I glimpsed an Ivan Brunetti cover from The New Yorker at one point, in the clutches of contributing editor André Leon Talley.)

I hope the movie serves as a corrective to The Devil Wears Prada (the movie anyway, can't speak for the book). The portrait of imperious "Miranda Priestly" in that movie, ably embodied by Meryl Streep, did much to convince me that Wintour must be (while highly able herself) impossibly demanding, rude, and so on.

If that is true, I didn't see any evidence of it in The September Issue. In the documentary she seemed extremely busy and capable, certain in her views, decisive (she calls this her most important trait), more than passably considerate. She didn't seem demanding in petty ways; cheerful enough when engaging with people, quiet and composed when in observation mode (peering at the many catwalks, for instance).

Indeed, "grace under pressure" seems an apter slogan for Wintour than "ice queen." It really makes you wonder about the way we view successful, nay powerful, women in our culture. I'll take her over Jack Welch any day.

As far as I can tell, the movie is really about competence. Virtually everyone in the movie is a highly competent professional immersed in his or her work, thoroughly knowledgeable and fulfilled and accustomed to pressure and therefore calm and cheerful.

I appreciate this because it's important to have on display arenas where excellence and talent and standards are valued—it's so often not the case. Elsewhere we must put up with compromise and backsliding and shortcuts and limited budgets and on and on. It's inspiring to see a place where excellence is valued as a matter of course, there's no doubt that an imperfect photo shoot will be redone.

In the Wikipedia writeup for the movie it says that creative director Grace Coddington (who is awesome and steals the movie) is "the only person who dares to stand up to Anna Wintour." What nonsense! Wintour is shown dealing with a lot of people, and I didn't see too many frightened individuals in any of those meetings.

Wintour does make life difficult for Coddington by disagreeing about a couple of Coddington's photo shoots, but if Wintour made any errors of judgment at any point during the movie, I must have missed them.

Finally, if you want to know what I think of the fashion industry, listen carefully to what Wintour's daughter Bee Shaffer says about it. I'm with her.


I have to agree.

The thing that was most striking to me was how many photos she dismissed that I thought were great. She has an eye that is so finely attuned to what works for her magazine that it is almost operating on another plane.

I ultimately agreed with all of her decisions regarding photography, even if at the time I questioned them.

Jarrod ZickefooseJuly 08, 2010

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