The September Issue is a story of wildly successful, business savvy, talented, creative geniuses many of whom have worked in the fashion industry for nearly 40 years and are still passionately pushing boundaries, working full speed ahead, and plugging away every month to create a new issue of Vogue. Also? Keep their jobs. The stars of the RJ Cutler documentary, Grace Coddington (early on, it's clear she's the beloved lead) and Anna Wintour, along with majority of their supporting characters- Tonne Goodman, Andre Leon Talley, Mario Testino, and others -- all belong to an age bracket that is not immediately associated with the youth obsessed industry. It was refreshing to see a film largely comprised of people over the age of 40, but furthermore, being a member of a younger generation than the ones I was observing in this film, I marveled that no matter how much experience one has, and how high on the proverbial ladder of success one has achieved, everyone must still scramble.
Everyone depicted in this film fiercely believes in the work that they do and must constantly gain approval from those above. We see Virginia Smith at Anna's desk timidly defending her 'pink' trend for the next season. Grace Coddington relentlessly checks the editorial board to see how the beautiful photo spread she created is dwindling down image by image via Anna's decisive 'red pen' as the results from other spreads come in. It's interesting to note that she alone habitually pushes back and questions Anna over her decisions to remove any of her images from the magazine. The regal Tonne Goodman has to own up and defend what, according to Anna, was "not enough clothes" in her Sienna shoot, and then there's Anna herself at her desk dropping her head into her hands as she finds that Mario Testino has no more images to send her; not one that she's seen so far is good enough for a cover. Even the Wintour ice queen, who according to Tom Florio touches every aspect of the fashion industry, has the pressure of the industry at large and Vogue's million plus subscribers pushing her to the perfection she has set as precedent.
There is a common misperception, I think, that if one works long and hard in their youth, the job gets easier. If we plug along in our twenties and thirties, we'll reach some mystical plane of success from which point we glide on a magic carpet up the remaining rungs. The people in this film reveal that if you are passionate about your work and have a drive for learning, exploring, discovering, and pushing the envelope there is never a point where you sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. We are all plugging away on these parallel planes of success, some may be a few rungs above or below but either way we are all fiercely working forward.
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