I lived in New York once, and I have spent plenty of time there over the years, growing up in Boston and visiting my dad in Connecticut. Certainly I enjoyed it then–and appreciate it still–but it’s unlikely I’d ever move back. It just doesn’t hold any special appeal for me anymore.
Still, in September (in particular, this September), I can’t help but feel a pang of envy. It’s Fashion Week. The uber-hyped Fashion’s Night Out is tomorrow, taunting me with its promise of killer sales, celebrity sightings and champagne. Oh, to clink classes with Simon Doonan at Barneys, after facials from Olivia Chantecaille and an autograph signing from Jack and Lazaro. I need to unsubscribe from these tortuous NY-centric listservs. STAT.
But what had me most angsty this September was waiting a little bit longer than our east coast friends to see The September Issue. When I first caught the early buzz–it had to be a year ago–I was riveted, and when the good reviews poured in, I was mildly perturbed that I couldn’t see it opening day. Alas, the fashion gods (aka a friend at Barneys) kindly put me out of my misery with a ticket to the Chicago screening.
This is not a review. There have already been countless write-ups, and I won’t add anything that hasn’t already been said. But I will say this: Creative Director Grace Coddington is truly awe-inspiring. She is, in my opinion, the true visionary behind the Vogue operation. The unsung hero. Whereas Ms. Wintour clearly supplies the business sense, the savvy, the wheeling-and-dealing, string-pulling and overruling, Grace is unbridled, wildly creative and, as a result, often reeled in.
Naturally, Anna is the star of this movie. I enjoyed seeing how she has wielded her influence over the years–like ushering in the practice of putting celebrities on the cover (a smart business move, sure, but one that has alienated a good portion of Vogue’s readership). But the portrait of Anna wasn’t particularly surprising for readers of the magazine and followers of the Vogue culture. We already knew that she was a tough cookie, a sharp editor and an exacting boss. We also can assume that she’s human, too. (And if we didn’t already, producer R.J. Cutler did a nice job of exposing her more vulnerable moments.)
The footage of flame-haired Grace, on the other hand, revealed something new–the elusive woman behind the woman. Grace is an artist, someone driven by pure inspiration. The passion is behind her eyes; it emanates in every scene. And her raison d’etre seems more holistic: It’s about aesthetic beauty, not necessarily fashion, trends, labels and designers. When Anna is meeting with designers, photographers and other heavy hitters, Grace is behind the scenes–culling items for the fashion spreads, poring through books for inspiration, dressing the models and scouting locations. And she is beyond passionate, noticeably upset when several pages of her brilliant 1920s spread are killed. I felt for her not only because her artistic direction was pure genius– but because she poured so much heart and soul into it. Genius (and heart and soul), as we know, can’t always trump budget concerns.
I have just one critique of the film: More Andre Leon Talley in full Louis Vuitton regalia, please! But the film’s most enjoyable moments were the ones that focused on Grace: her rise from model to editor, her hands-on, backstage moments and her candid confessions. I came out of the movie reassured that there’s a place for creative, not-so-practical people. Suffice it to say, I want to be Grace Coddington when I grow up.