The average person will know the names of supermodels or the celebrities who have replaced them as the cover models on the cover of Vogue, but the names of those who bring style into our homes are often unknown. The exception to this is Anna Wintour. Synonymous with high fashion, Wintour took over as editor of Vogue in 1988. In the past 2+ decades, Wintour has defined what we wear and how we wear it.
The September Issue follows Wintour and the rest of Vogue’s staff as they prepare their biggest, most important issue of the year: September. Conceiving and executing this most important issue of fashion’s “bible” is no small feat, and The September Issue doesn’t obscure any of the trials and tribulations experienced in putting the issue to bed.
Wintour is legendarily difficult to work with; as one of Vogue’s editors notes early on, she is neither accessible nor warm. What she is is extraordinarily determined and focused on what she does. More than competent, Wintour is nonetheless assisted by the talents of her Creative Director, Grace Coddington. A former model, Coddington first worked as a Junior Editor at British Vogue, and later took on the role of Creative Director under Wintour at U.S. Vogue. As much as The September Issue is about Anna Wintour, it is just as much about Grace Coddington, as the two women work together and clash over their ideas for the content of this seminal issue of the magazine.
During production of this particular September issue, Coddington became attached to a shoot she worked on which took its inspiration from the 1920s; Wintour didn’t like the result of the shoot and ended up leaving the majority of it on the cutting room floor. The ensuing tension was palpable, but ultimately, both women are consummate professionals. Their working relationship is ultimately what allows for the successful production of Vogue.
It would be interesting to delve more into Wintour’s background and her feelings; we see glimpses of this throughout The September Issue, first when her daughter discusses her own career plans and we see the disappointment on Wintour’s face that her daughter has no interest in following in her footsteps in the world of fashion. Still later, as Anna Wintour reveals that her siblings find her career “amusing” as they work in more respectable fields, it becomes patently evident that Wintour is trying to prove her worth. She is looking for validation.
There is a long shot near the end of the film when the camera lingers on Wintour: she looks small and unsure and deeply unsettled. It is at this moment that the legendary Wintour is revealed as much less frightening than she has often been made out to be (The Devil Wears Prada was written by Lauren Weisberger, a former personal assistant to Wintour), as her vulnerability and humanity are unveiled.
Fashion may not have the gravitas that Wintour believes it does, but as she continues to give added weight to her September issues of Vogue, she is doing her best to give it some.