The following post offers a review of the documentary The September Issue as well as insight into how differently I see things now compared to fifteen years ago.
I wrote my thesis on Vogue magazine. Up there in that old Vogue library on the top floor of the former Condé Nast building, I lived and dreamed in the pages of Horst P Horst and Man Ray's dramatic lighting, in the whimsical pithy fashion prose of Diana Vreeland with her face painting and pony fantasyland. From Edna Woolman Chase's days of the corset to WWII fabric shortages, from the New Look to Grace Mirabella's power suit, I was fascinated.
But just as Anna Wintour said in the tedious bedraggled documentary, The September Issue, some are not let in. But far from making me envious and mournful of all those lost years not spent at Vogue, I was ultimately empowered by fate. I thought about all of the broken hearts and broken spirits of the young girls who went there full of dreams and came out beaten and diminished and possibly anorexic and I wondered, 'what do you do with that?'
If a girl has any sense (but who does at 21? And why should she?), she'd never get wrapped up in the first place. She pursues her dream whatever it may be, undaunted. Hopefully it's something noble, helping mankind, that sort of thing, but if not noble, something personal, something that takes discipline, dedication, some measure of purity of intent.
Now that we've opened up a whole new platform for people to create and be heard without any golden gates barring entry, what will become of Vogue's primacy? Or maybe we should be looking at the real monster these days -- the ghastly tasteless celebrity circus with its gobs of drooping collagen-implanted lips and tight foreheads with forced squirrel eyes. That whole ordeal makes Vogue look like Glenda the Good Witch -- or maybe Hollywood and Us magazine are so vulgar and absurd that it makes you yearn for a high priestess arbiter of taste again, the kind they had in the old days, the kind that, well, it seems Grace Coddington carries with her in her disappointed expression looking out over the Tuileries on a grey Paris day. 'Maybe I'm just a romantic,' she muses and you feel sad for her, like you want to hug her, all those lovely frocks and dreams on glossy pages and for what? Surely there is something more she can do with it all. If she couldn't then, she can now. Create a book of all the fantasies in her head without Anna's veto power. Or costume a ballet or an opera like Chanel, Picasso or Cocteau. Or move to a new medium and have an exhibit of her own work, her own vision, without the dress price tags. Write a book... It's ironic that her face in that scene, the only one that resonated for me, reminds me of all the women and girls out there I want to promote, applaud, and support. A spirit that needs saving.
There's something lost and something gained in every generation. I'd take autonomy and freedom of expression any day. Let the curators and editors find their artists and let the artists find their curators and editors among the millions of profiles and networks and shouting voices out there, politics and pecking order be damned.