The September Issue, a documentary on Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue USA, is now available via Netflix and cable providers. In light of Jane’s post here yesterday on New York Fashion Week, and Deja Pseu’s musings, I wondered what you all thought about the movie. For those who have not seen it,
The September Issue revolves around:
- An industry which speaks first and foremost to itself.
- Creative and unpredictable talent.
- An imperious CEO.
Not unlike software. Except the clothing. Not a lot of fabric in the software business. But I digress.
Most noticeably, The September Issue reminds you how much the top of the fashion industry is about and for itself. We, the ostensible end users, aren’t the consumers Conde Nast cares about. A long, long, long value chain lies between us and whatever Vogue, Ms. Wintour, Grace Coddington (admirable though she may be), or Thakoon (for example) create. Which is to say that this elite crew produce something rather like yeast starter, and we want bread. We can’t wear yeast starter. We won’t wear yeast starter. But it does appear that we can’t have bread without it. Pick any industry, you will find a usable simile. In software, Anna and her minions would be the 6’2″ Russian software architect who hangs his sleeping bag on the back of the door and subsists, miraculously, on Cheetos.
Luckily, the fashion value chain gets broader all the time. Thank you, Internet. I used to read Vogue religiously, and scour the ‘Where to Buy’ lists in the back. Now for fashion I also read, among others,
- The Cut (if you read only one institutional fashion blog, this is it, you will laugh out loud)
- High Snobiety, Young. Rich. And Artistic, (edgy)
- Une Femme, Passage des Perles, A Femme, Already Pretty, Fashion After Forty (personal and age-appropriate)
- Corporette (for work)
- Caroline, No., Fashion for Nerds, (for fun)
These days, we can form our own ideas, tailored to our life, our style, our sense of self. We can read the fashion magazines, but as an exercise in imagination, not a directive on where to shop. I ask Twitter who makes the best khakis. I am by no means alone or unnoted by the industry. Nor are you. I’m not saying anything here the industry isn’t well aware of. As you probably know, fashion bloggers sat in the front row of shows last week.
I think it helps, looking through fashion shoots, to remember. These are the magicians in the back room, the guys in the lab, the ones inventing. Pay them as much mind as you want. No more. They want to scare you, that’s how they get to get paid to make stuff no one ever buys. We, for the most part, care more about the engineers, the people who actually build, and the sales guys who actually sell. But the J. Crews, the Anthropologies, the Nordstrom Classiques Entiere, the Etsy vendors, the neighborhood boutiques, the Stuart Weitzmans, they know we need them. Less smoke, fewer mirrors required.
Creative and unpredictable talent is necessary, but what it produces, we are unlikely to touch, and do not need to bow before. Unless we want to. Fashion, despite its claims to near-religious status, is a business like any other. Similar structure, similar dynamics as software, steel, or sourdough bread-making, for that matter.
Finally, The September Issue shows us Anna Wintour, in all her glory. She’s not very nice. But are we remotely surprised? I’ve never met a nice CEO. At least not a nice, successful CEO. They don’t get where they are as a prize for nice. They get where they are because they are willing to make decisions and live by the outcome. Takes a tough skin. Sometimes takes outright megalomania. The only novelty about Anna Wintour, in my experience, is that somebody filmed her doing her job.