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September Vogue Is a PR Ploy Disguised as Art

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In some ways I can relate to Vogue Editor Anna Wintour, brought to life (at least partially) in the new release, The September Issue.

Like Anna, I too have sported a bob for a century, prefer vibrant fabrics to New York black, and often wear ozone-blocking, Jacky O. shades (although I take mine off when fashion gazing to see the true colors and textures on the runway).Even Jack tends to remove his Wayfarers at Lakers games to see the action.

Wintour is indeed an icon but the opportunity to see her up close and personal in the film wasn’t as rewarding as I had hoped, but rather left me feeling lower than Shoddy.

As bony and superior as an aging, alcoholic ballet instructor, Anna was even more bored with her environ than her overblown caricature seemed in The Devil Wears Prada. Did Streep get it down or what?

Meantime, the fashion power broker emerged the loyal bedfellow of Neiman Marcus and the rest of the fur-peddling, celebrity bolstered, corporate retail world. In fact, her conflict with photo stylist Grace Coddington was the classic battle of soul over substance—art fighting desperately to prevail over highly sought after ad dollars.

The notion that Wintour had the power and foresight to resurrect fur by putting it on the cover in the 90’s is a sad statement about how insulated she is in her Vogue bubble. How about the progress made by her British humanitarian friends who fought hard to sensitize the world to animal cruelty? Is she that hard up for a thicker book?

The most desperate film moment for me was Vogue’s so-called annual meeting in Europe with the powers that be, i.e. the head of Neiman Marcus, who feigned frustration at the slow pace exhibited by couture houses (Anna’s mates) in delivering their $10,000 creations to a fast growing and highly demanding clientele. The exec implied Anna had the clout to nudge the designers to crank it out in Project Runway time.

Well, now, that’s just a bunch of bullshit. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like my documentaries staged. The fashion world has been hit hard for years and the clientele that wants its $10,000 gowns more promptly is dwindling. All that really remains are the celebs and their stylists who mostly borrow the treasures for a day.

Other pathetic staging: The Starbucks cups, the casual visits to the couture houses of Paris, the pulling of the shots from the storyboard in the art editor’s office. I guess the art guy was the Stanley Tucci character of Prada, another middle-aged staffer at Vogue dealing with Anna’s erratic whims and boredom. After all, she’s been at the helm for twenty years. Might be time to give someone else a shot.

Former model Grace Coddington also has been at Vogue some twenty years and clearly is still enthralled with her “art” which often take a backseat to Anna’s need to control the environment which bores her so, simply because she can. Coddington is the antithesis to the corporate fashion ideal and often rubs their noses with her long, unkempt red hair and cosmetic-free ruddy face begging for a makeover at the place where you know it would be pretty easy to get one. The fact she doesn’t is a statement.

If there are any redeeming traits in R.J. Cutler’s frockumentary, it is the endurance of Coddington and her ilk in the doomed world of thick fashion books that use too much paper, perpetuate the death camp body image, and continue to peddle fur in an age of eco-awareness.

May Coddington find a way to live on and showcase her skills long after Anna has hung up her Warhol wig and shades, retired to the country, and found a way to put on some weight and smile. Maybe there’s even a job on the web for Anna, assuming she could stoop so low. But then again, who would bring her coffee?

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