Anna and Grace duke it out over Galliano — finally saw, and loved, 'The September Issue'

Anna Wintour at New York's Fall Fashion Week, 2005
Anna Wintour, Vogue editor. Image via Wikipedia

What a fun film!

OK, I am way behind on this one — the documentary, “The September Issue,” came out nationwide last September. I watched it yesterday. If you haven’t seen it, rent it with “The Devil Wears Prada” for a delicious double-bill, comparing real life to reel life.

For those of you not passionate about clothes, fashion, design or what Anna actually looks like without those damn sunglasses — the film is about the making of Vogue’s September issue, a legendarily enormous annual doorstop of a magazine weighing as much as a Thanksgiving turkey.

Tom Florio, publisher of Vogue, is a great character in the film as he tries to explicate Wintour’s terrifyingly glacial demeanor, deliciously parodied by Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada”, a film based on a book by  former Vogue assistant, Lauren Weisberger.

“She’s not warm,” he says. “I have to be warm for both of us. She’s busy. She’s busy doing her job.”

I’ve seen DWP so many times I can recite its dialogue by heart; I loved seeing how exactly it mimics Wintour’s real office, behavior and rareified lifestyle.

And the brutal, albeit very well-dressed, power struggles are Olympian!

Watching Grace Coddington — the magazine’s creative director — sparring with (and inevitably losing to) Wintour is a rare and telling glimpse of what it takes for two powerful, determined, talented and creative women to achieve, and remain at, the highest levels of this most competitive game. That both are British, coming from a culture where understatement trumps typical New York in-your-face-ness, only makes their civil but relentless jockeying for pages even more compelling.

Not to mention the enormous egos — photographers, models, editors, art directors, designers. However appalling to every feminist bone in my body, I loved the scene where the art director is deciding which image of Sienna Miller to use on the most valuable piece of real estate, the cover — and he’s dismayed by her visible fillings (!)

“I think this neck looks better. Maybe we’ll put this head on this body,” he says, revealing how their use of Photoshop and retouching is as automatic and unremarkable as breathing. Altered images, which I’ve blogged about here before, are normal in this world. Therefore Grace — desperate to rescue a failed shoot by using one of the documentary’s middle-aged male cameramen, complete with his real pot-belly, as a photo subject — has to rush to the phone to make sure his jiggly real-world belly is not artifically flattened by their ruthlessly fastidious re-touchers.

“We’re not,” she says to the camera, “all perfect.”

Even if reading Vogue has never been a priority, check it out.

It’s funny, moving, telling — few documentaries focus on women at work, let alone whose well-toned arms wrestle so fiercely for raw, pure power.

A Death Foretold? Alexander McQueen's Final Collection Filled With Doves And Angels

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 11:  A private ambu...
His final exit.Image by Getty Images via Daylife

In the fashion world in recent years, there were few more iconoclastic or truly creative than British designer Alexander McQueen, who committed suicide a month ago today, on February 12, a week after the death of his mother. He died on the day he was to have attended her funeral.

His final collection was reviewed this week in The New York Times:

No collection dominated the Paris season quite like Alexander McQueen’s, and not because it represented the final work of the late designer. The 16 dresses and caped coats — each one different and all referencing 15th-century paintings or carvings — were exceptional because no one else thought to make such a personal and subtle connection to the function of art on human consciousness.

Mr. McQueen’s fashion often embraced historical styles, but rarely with more feeling and modern sense of purpose. He had details of medieval paintings, in particular Hieronymus Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights,” captured digitally and then woven into jacquard or embroidered. He cut each of the patterns himself.

Given the subject matter of the paintings, the imagery is necessarily gothic, glorious but also dark. Lions are embroidered in gold around the hem of a beautiful black silk caped dress. On the front of a long white dress are the slightly shadowed, downcast heads of two saintly figures. Above each is a dove in flight. The silk dress, with the details rendered in different shadings of gray, extends the figures’ robes to the hem, duplicating their swirls and folds in jacquard chiffon.

and much more compassionately and movingly by Christina Binkley in The Wall Street Journal:

What made the collection difficult to watch was the unmistakable impression that the designer was immersed in thoughts of the afterlife. Patterns on a gold brocade pant suit, on closer inspection, turned out to be angels, their wings spanning the torso. A floaty silk gown was imprinted with medieval images, the fabric folded back to place one white dove on the back of each shoulder.

Perhaps the eeriest insight into the designer’s final weeks was a dress imprinted with a scene from Bosch’s triptych “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” which shows the artist’s hellish conception of the afterlife.

The final look was a fitted jacket of gold-painted feathers over a white tulle skirt embellished with gold. It created an image of a gold-winged dove flying away.

I have never owned anything by him, nor would I have been likely to. But his ebullient creativity was a great pleasure for anyone who loves fashion and design.

To die at 40, by your own hand, is a terrible thing.

On her Times blog, Horyn wrote:

I’ve done a number of interviews with Mr. McQueen over the years, since the period when he was living and working in Hoxton Square, when the brash boy of London fashion, the creator of the “bumster” trousers, and I found him about as complex and beguiling as any human. He was enormously creative and intelligent — and funny and rude and fearless. He said what he thought — a rarity in the fashion establishment — and very often he could wind you up, toy with you, pull a bit of wool over your wide, innocent eyes.

But he was the real: a genuinely talented man. Soulful, deeply English and, of course, dark. He did have a dark, romantic side that surfaced in his collections. Depressed at times? I didn’t know him well enough to say so, but I would imagine he had his moments of despair. This is a tough business.