On Wednesday I headed to the Curzon Mayfair with 5 well-heeled girlfriends in a cloud of palpable excitement and intrigue to watch The September Issue. I had eagerly awaited the release of this documentary as Anna Wintour is the fashion figure-head we all love to hate, and I could not wait for her legendarily icy persona to be immortalised on film. The reason why the movie is so great, is that we the audience are fed with exactly what we anticipated. How god-awful and thoroughly disappointing would it be if we were introduced to a smiley, humorous and god forbid remotely approachable Miss Wintour. Alas no, her reputation precedes her and she is every immaculate inch as cold and brazenly tough as is expected, lets face it with that hairstyle how could she be anything but?
I have never subscribed to the idea that fashion gurus have to be monsters; that is goes with the territory or adds to the glamour. Living proof of my dispute to this theory is the simply wonderful Miss Coddington. With the release of this documentary I can virtually hear the sound of Grace Coddington fan-clubs springing up left, right and centre. She is so cheeky and charming in her perpetual antagonisms of Anna Wintour. Their fashion philosophies come from the complete opposite ends of the spectrum and it is a constant battle for them to see eye to eye. The interplay between the two matrons of high fashion made for fabulous entertainment, Grace being the only one bold and stubborn enough to stand up to Anna. Grace Coddington's idealised views on fashion come from a very innocent and personal place. Her background in modelling formed her flair for fashion, so she is all about the relationship between camera, model and overall eventual aesthetics of the page. While Anna Wintour is all names, brands, figures, readers and filling pages. In fact it appears she is single-handedly responsible for everything I hate about American Vogue like endorsing celebrity culture by putting them on their covers (bring back the models)and getting rid of all the best shots! To me it was a no brainer that Grace Coddington was on a constant quest for quality 'stories' and beauty - it is what keeps her going. Whereas Anna Wintour is the big dog because she has a business mind. When you are that high up the American branch of an international tree as big as Vogue - it seems like budget and reputation are your two principal concerns. A male colleague compares her to the Pope of the fashion church, but to me she is less than Holy! To me her role is comparable to that of the Queen - signing off; approving or dismissing the ideas of others.
Grace Coddington is perpetually musing her old-school approach to magazine world. She says
"I think I got left behind somewhere because I'm still a romantic, you have to go charging ahead, you can't stay left behind."
I can see how in a world where Anna Wintour was your contemporary, it would be easy to think that romance was dead. The two strong women could not have more diverse policies; at shows Anna Wintour sits, dark shades intact as if to complete her poker face. At couture week in Paris, Grace is the last man standing on the front row perfecting her notes and annotations. She communicates her visions clearly to photographers and actually handles the clothes. She doesn't call on a scruffy junior assistant for alterations but pins sleeves and hems herself. She is old school in the best possible way and the models must love her! She is all heart full of romantic notions, a real love for her art complete with mad red hair and fiery emotions. I definitely left the cinema wishing she were my friend.
The film was fantastically edited; capturing all sorts of cringe-worthy awkward looks and silences. However I must say, for someone who wants to work in fashion editorial it did not leave my mouth-watering for a slice of the Vogue pie and to be truthful I think I come from the Grace Coddington school of just not tough enough. I urge you people, budding fashionistas and documentary lovers alike - go and see this film!
1. showtime Wintour
2. a young Grace Coddington in her model days
3. Grace Coddington
4. and 5. some typically romantic shots as orchestrated by Ms Coddington