“Fashion’s not about looking back, it’s about looking forward,” declares Vogue’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, at the end of the 2009 documentary, The September Issue. Released a decade ago to a legion of fans and industry watchers who desperately wanted a glimpse behind the pages of their favourite style tome, the movie, directed by R.J. Cutler, afforded rare access to arguably fashion’s most influential platform as it put together the September 2007 issue of Vogue during the height of the industry’s early-2000s era of success.
Capturing the excess and expense of photo shoots and couture collections through a pre-recession lens and making stars out of behind-the-scenes players such as stylist Grace Coddington, the movie launched an entire genre of behind-the-scenes content that’s now at the core of how fashion markets itself. So despite Wintour’s edict, a decade after the film’s release, we decided to look at where its key characters and the industry it reflected are today.
One early scene in The September Issue sees the Vogue team having breakfast in Paris with some of luxury retail’s biggest players. Burton Tansky, the CEO of Neiman Marcus Stores (who retired in 2010), makes a point of mentioning how the delayed delivery of merchandise from designers impacts their sales, noting that customers don’t want to wait to buy what they see on the runways. Since that fateful conversation, some fashion brands such as Burberry and Oliver Spencer have tried their hand at a see-now-buy-now model, which was largely abandoned by early adopters after only a few seasons since, apparently, shoppers are actually okay to wait. Still, the immediacy of online shopping has revolutionized fashion sales. According to one report from Statista, retail e-commerce revenue in Canada was worth almost US$40-billion in 2018.
There was a time when fashionistas could only imagine what a day in the life of a top editor would look like. Today, thanks to Instagram, we know what they’re eating for breakfast, how they work out and what shoes they’re wearing on any given day (Eva Chen, the Teen Vogue boss turned social media executive probably deserves the most credit for making such oversharing somewhat palatable). The September Issue’s access to Anna Wintour’s office, appointments and city and summer homes attempted to humanize Vogue’s top voice in a way that people take for granted now.
“Break the rules,” Vogue’s advertising team was advised in terms of how to approach selling brands into the magazine. In 2019, you’d be hard-pressed to know what those rules would even be, given the ever-blurrier line between fashion editorial and advertising accelerated by the growth of the influencer economy. Even industry outlets seem confused. Recently, the Business of Fashion website ran the headlines “Don’t Scoff at Influencers. They’re Taking Over the World” and “Influencer Fraud Is a Billion-Dollar Problem” just over a week apart.
IN IS OUT
Perhaps one of the most interesting shifts in the fashion industry in the past 10 years has been the demise of the trend – or at least not being so slavishly devoted to them. As more brands are able to communicate directly with their audience via social media, their messaging is less about what’s hot and more about their philosophy, storytelling and what, if any, social responsibility they’re engaged in. If you’re interested, though, one of fall 2019’s top trends is feathers – and it was back in 2007 too. Actor Sienna Miller jumps around in an aviary’s worthy of plumes in the Vogue issue’s cover spread.
A veritable who’s-who of designers was featured in The September Issue, from more under-the-radar names such as Isabel Toledo, to icons such as Oscar de la Renta, to wunderkind Thakoon Panichgul, who, in the film, was in the process of designing a collaborative collection for Gap. After putting his Thakoon brand on hiatus in 2017, the designer recently announced the launch of HommeGirls, a digital platform celebrating the influence of men’s wear in women’s fashion. Coincidently, a recent editorial on the website was styled by Elissa Santisi, who is scolded by Wintour in the movie for being a tad too predictable with her photo shoot ideas.
A #METOO MOMENT
The movement that enabled many people to come forward with their stories of abuse at the hands of the entertainment industry’s most powerful people touched the fashion world as well. In 2017, Mario Testino – who photographed Miller for the September issue at the centre of the film – faced allegations of sexual misconduct by dozens of models and has since essentially fallen off fashion’s radar. Condé Nast, Vogue’s owner, banned working with Testino in 2018.
While Anna Wintour remains the editor-in-chief at Vogue (and was named artistic director of Condé Nast in 2013), the other editors featured in the documentary have seen a boost in their profiles. Contributing editor André Leon Talley’s own documentary, The Gospel According to André, was released in 2017 and entranced fans who felt The September Issue didn’t give the eccentric editor enough screen time. Coddington launched a fragrance and a memoir in 2012 and recently collaborated with Louis Vuitton on a collection of accessories covered in her cat illustrations. But the greatest glow-up belongs to the cinematically beleaguered Edward Enninful, who, after leaving Vogue for W Magazine, became the first black editor-in-chief of a Vogue title when he took over at British Vogue in 2017.