In the 2006 hit The Devil Wears Prada there was a single line that summed up Meryl Streep’s pitch-perfect portrayal of icy fashion editor Miranda Priestly: “That’s all.” The real-life inspiration behind the character, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, has such a commanding presence that even those few words are hardly necessary. Her disapproval is apparent with a single glare.
The September Issue follows Wintour and her loyal band of editors as they prepare for the most important month of the year in fashion. As one employee says, September in fashion is like January for most people: it’s a fresh start. Throughout the 90-minute documentary director R.J. Cutler captures an intimate, surprisingly compelling look behind the scenes of an institution that is synonymous with fashion.
Wintour is, of course, a larger-than-life character. She’s frequently shrouded in fur, decked out in amber shades, doted on by photographers and designers, catered to by an army of personal assistants, and widely regarded as the most influential woman in the industry.
However, she is also a mother—a gentler side most people never see. There is also brief discussion of Wintour’s family—almost all of whom are editors—but she chooses her words carefully when discussing her private life. Her responses in general are rather succinct—a quality that has landed her a reputation for being a cold person. However, after watching the film, I think that is merely an example of the blatant double standard women in the workforce encounter on a daily basis.
Anna Wintour is first and foremost a businesswoman. In this film we see her make decisions without hesitation: toss that dress, nix this photograph, and kill that fashion shoot. We see her deliver criticism without bracing her words. It’s clear she is not easy to work for or with, and that’s what makes her so interesting to watch.
Her key team includes Grace Coddington, a former model and famed creative director at Vogue. The film is as much a peek into Wintour’s life as it is an introduction to Coddington—a highly regarded woman in the fashion industry that many people may not be familiar with. She takes her job very seriously, but also has a wonderful sense of humor. Coddington adds a surprising amount of comic relief to the film. When a model no wider than a blade of grass strikes an abnormally angular pose, Grace audibly gasps with delight. It is equal parts hilarious and intriguing. I’m sure most people wish they could get that kind of excitement from their job.
The documentary is presented in 16×9 Widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Vibrant fashion designs are clearly the stars here—the intricately crafted clothes pop right off the film’s otherwise flat color palette. The occasional runway shows highlight the above average black levels. The slight fuzziness of the picture can be distracting at times. Subtitles are presented in English and Spanish.
The September Issue is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound with an option for 2.0 Dolby Digital. The music by Craig Richey and supervisor Margaret Yet is particularly lively, especially during the runway scenes. The warm bass lines are the perfect accomplice to the percolating rhythm focused indie-pop soundtrack. Director R. J. Cutler also provides an audio commentary track.
Deleted Scenes: The September Issue also comes with a bonus disc of more than an hour’s worth of deleted scenes.
7th on Sale (6:42) Anna attends a fundraising event in NYC and has a bit of a hissy fit over ice tubs that clash with the décor.
Grace and her inspirations (4:04) Grace Coddington discusses her fashion inspirations from her home.
Andre visits Paris (5:55) Editor at Large Andre Leon Talley goes shopping in Paris.
Thakoon designs a dress (3:29) A look into fashion designer Thakoon’s process while tweaking a dress.
Cinematographer Bob Richman’s Behind The Scenes Photo Gallery More than 50 black and white photos documenting the employees of Vogue.
Theatrical Trailer (2:31) Original trailer for The September Issue.
Anna Wintour: (43:27) Multiple scenes with Ann Wintour out and about at social functions, attending meetings at Vogue offices in New York and traveling the world to talk with designers.
Grace Coddington: (16:01) Cameras follow Grace Coddington as she supervises fashion shoots and discusses her photographs.
Andrew Leon Talley: (13:10) A collection of scenes with the irritating Andre Leon Talley as he visits designer Vera Wang and delivers a commencement speech at the High School of Fashion Industries in NYC.
Thakoon: (5:42) Fashion designer Thakoon showcases some of his work at Bergdorf Goodman in NYC and sees his work in the pages of Vogue for the first time.
Sienna Miller Complete Cover Shoot: (4:46) Actress Sienna Miller prepares for her Vogue cover shoot and awkwardly poses for the camera.
If you’re a fan of fashion-centered television shows like Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model, this documentary will probably captivate you immediately. For others, the melodrama of the fashion world will probably seem quite pretentious and self-indulgent. It’s the most in-depth look into the fashion world that I’ve seen—and certainly the most revealing peak into Vogue. Ann Wintour and Grace Coddington may be fashion legends, but they’re also rather kooky. Then again, as The September Issue highlights, fame and eccentricity often go hand in hand.