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2009 May 28

A September to Remember

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(NEW YORK) Hot on the heels of that 60 Minutes interview, we know you're wondering when (oh when!) will the fashion world enjoy the Hearst co-produced Vogue docu-drame The September Issue? Conveniently, the release date has been announced as September 11, the first official day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. It looks like the upcoming fashion season still bares a few delicious surprises. 

Brilliant indie director R.J. Cutler (The War Room) uses the production of fashion's most legendary magazine as a metaphor for the struggle of creativity in an environment that is increasingly hostile to artistic endeavors. Hence the astounding dynamic between world-class creative director Grace Coddington and masterful business-minded editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.'s executive fashion director Candy Pratts Price likens Wintour to the Pope, while Cutler identifies creative director Grace Coddington as the magazine’s patron saint. The portrait he draws of her emerges as the film’s true revelation. Although Coddington spent the first several months of filming telling the documentary crew to “go away,” Cutler focuses intently on her role as Wintour’s friendly foil. The September Issue follows her zealously while shooting well stories and attending appointments with Wintour, using any free moments to probe her psyche.

What's even more interesting (in the film) than the glorious work Coddington conceives is the pain she endures in the office when her spreads are killed. Although this stealthy style of editing is common practice in every corner of the publishing world, Coddington’s frustration is unusually heartbreaking for the viewer. Her almost maternal attachment to the photographs is the most compelling and sympathetic relationship explored in the film.

Despite Coddington's great responsibilities and over forty years of industry experience, she has retained an exceptionally low profile, attending the most serious shows while eschewing the most frivolous parties. Her front-row attitude (or lack thereof) is entirely focused on the looks at hand, which she sketches furiously. Coddington shies away from photographers and reporters, and she is often seen riding the subway to work. For over twenty years, Coddington has lived with the hairstylist Didier Malige, who is referenced in the film and employed frequently by many glossy magazines, including Vogue. (He appears in The September Issue, but is only seen fleetingly from behind.) In 2006, the couple authored The Catwalk Cats, a book of photographs and drawings.

Coddington emerges as a benevolent warrior, challenging Wintour and design director Charles Churchward when certain looks or models are removed from the layouts. "I got told off today for being uncompromising," Coddington told Mark Holgate in a 2002 profile in New York. "Actually, they called me ungrateful and then they changed it to uncompromising. I think that's the secret to my career: If you give in, you don't get perfection."

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