Back at Vogue Again

The September Issue -- filmed as far as I can tell during 2007 (I recognised the hairy, plastic fringed Prada dress that received an acid comment about the unwearable weight of materials employed by the Italian house early in the film) -- is a beautifully filmed documentary that spies on the production of the biggest ever September issue.

Rather like the summer of 1914, this was the perfect glossy loveliness before the crash -- with everyone flying high on a haze of fashion, with Anna Wintour firmly in charge.

I started my career at British Vogue, and knew Grace Coddington then. Watching her sublimely dignified, funny performance in TSI reminded me of what an unusually nice person she was. That is not just in context of the fashion room which, for a lowly features assistant who wasn't all that thin and wore men's army surplus shorts and holey jumpers, was like walking on burning coals while being splashed with acid.

It was a bit like going to work, watching the film. Vogue House in London is decorated in much the same way, and pushing past endless racks of clothes was the norm. I do wonder how interesting people who haven't actually lived it, will find it -- given that since then things have changed so much.

Regretting leaving British Vogue before Anna Wintour arrived for the first time, I enjoyed her decisiveness, her clothes, her large, cut, semi-precious necklaces, alternating between topaz, amethyst and aquamarine. Powerful, expressive, jewelery -- a kind of breastplate to go with her helmet of hair. She also used it as a curtain and a mask, tipping her face forward when her mouth was particularly pursed -- for instance when Pilati, who designs for YSL, came up with yet another collection of black, droopy things. 'It's all hand-stitched,' he mentioned sadly.

She was energised and happy in a much more business-y meeting, and revealed very small amounts about herself. For instance that her father left journalism when he felt he was becoming too angry. She now knows how he felt. But I wanted to tell her that if you frighten people that much every day -- which has now become a fixed habit, it might be worth employing different, better people -- that is of course, apart from the sublime Grace Coddington -- who shot nearly the whole issue, still dresses the models herself and retains a winning manner and combative streak when it comes to Anna's killing fields.

Andre Leon Talley -- editor at large (huge in all dimensions) was a great joy -- playing the jester to the wicked queen -- a glorious episode where he thundered around the tennis court at Anna's behest, adorned thickly with Louis Vuitton accessories and his own bow window.

The camera came in very close, and we had the opportunity to study the beauty of these women. Grace is very much as I remember her, at nearly 70 -- minimal make-up and her shock of red hair. She stopped modeling abruptly after a car crash and probably had quite enough plastic surgery at the time. It is all about hair and teeth and keeping your figure -- not about getting a surgeon to peel off your face and stitch it back on higher up.

The team at US Vogue did seem very cowed, particularly the design director -- with his tiny white laptop, who prevaricated in a way that made me feel wild. In strong contrast to Anna's beautiful and notably unbowed daughter -- the look of love on her mother's face as she gazed at her was very warming. At one point she is asked the journo staple, "What is your strength?" Decisiveness (in spades, and even when you are wrong, this is the mark of good leadership). And weakness? "My children."

I was also glad to see the Canadian model Coco Rochas absolutely everywhere - she was my hot tip for the next big thing in the Vogue Hot List I edited in 2006 for British Vogue.

Best moment in the film was when Bob the cameraman was asked to jump for Patrick Demarchelier -- and the camera angle simply rose and fell. He was photoshopped into an image of the model jumping -- and Grace got her way when she prevented the art director from Photoshopping out his soft little belly.

This is a film for you if you are fascinated by magazines and what goes on there. Last word went to Anna 'So what else?' - well we know now, don't we?