Sunday, August 30, 2009

Watching "The September Issue". Can Vogue Be Saved?

I watched The September Issue this afternoon. It was fun, interesting, and even the husband who accompanied me didn't look tortured afterwards. If you've suffered through the informative but badly written Front Row, Anna Wintour's biography by Jerry Oppenheimer, or (the even worse) The devil Wears Prada, you're already familiar with Anna Wintour's special charm and probably have a general idea how a Vogue issue is produced. But watching it on screen is much more powerful, and it cements the shock and awe at the power, creativity and egos involved.

The movie gives some screen time to the intentional and unintentional hilarity of André Leon Talley, but the real star is neither André The Giant nor Cruella de Wintour. Grace Coddington, Vogue's long-suffering creative director, steals the show. She's inspired, artistic, knowledgable and utterly charming. She embodies everything I've ever loved about Vogue, even before her (and Wintour's) days in the magazine. We get to see her in action, watch her creative process and her struggles. While I have no choice but respect Anna Wintour's skill and achievements, it's Coddington who commands admiration for her work and personality. We want to strangle Wintour on her behalf and cheer when she ends up getting her way in the end.

The movie comes out at a time Vogue (and the entire publishing industry) is at the lowest point it's been in years. The September 2009 issue is no longer "the biggest one ever". Subscriptions, circulation and ad revenues are falling; magazines and newspapers are shutting down. It's a new world and the old media is having a hard time adjusting. You, my reader, being here is part of that. After all, blogs like this one came to be because the Beauty section of the magazines didn't deliver. Consumers want easy access, immediate information, honest reviews and the ability react, interact and participate in the process.

Can Vogue be saved?

I think the answer to that is yes. Probably because I strongly believe that it should be saved. Vogue has so much value as part of our culture and art. I've been a Vogue reader for most of my life, have always admired the work of Grace Mirabella and Diana Vreeland and would like to see the magazine emerge from Wintour's reign of terror and become better. It's an important resource that should be preserved and allowed to thrive, but it needs to adjust. I would like to see it step up, embrace the social media and engage its loyal readers and subscribers in ways that would enforce the magazine's relevance.

How do you feel about it? Do you think Vogue can be saved? How would you like to see the magazine evolve?

Photo of Grace Coddington and Anna Wintour from the NY Daily News


  1. Vogue should be saved - because I'm sentimental and it makes me utterly sad to see that my world is changing to no good (or no better). I'm European, living in Central Europe (I'm pointing this out, because this very fact might make my opinion different from that of a US citizen) - and I love to read my Vogue on Friday afternoon, after a week of long working days (I also travel a lot), have my cup of tea/coffee in an old fashioned coffeehouse and relax. This is the separation between working week and weeekend for me (it's the Vogue, or Vanity Fair, or Elle, or Harper's Bazaar). I have few blogs I read regularly, but they don't replace a good old printed magazin for me. I'm old fashioned and conservativ and I'm even proud of it !

  2. After subscribing to Vogue for many years, I let my subscription expire earlier this year. I did this mainly because Vogue began to annoy me for several reasons: the increasingly New York socialite-centric viewpoint, the heavy emphasis on modern art and the New York art scene, the beauty section that often seems limited to advertising the latest fashionable New York spa or Los Angeles dermatologist. I subscribed to US Vogue, rather than the edition produced for my country, as I wanted to get a broad, world-wide perspective on fashion.

    I would read a fashion magazine that highlights the best, most creative fashion, beauty products, perfumes, and jewellery in the world. I’m interested in the creators and designers, the trends and ideas. As you mention, specialist blogs are more effective at informing me than any magazine I can find.

    I wish Vogue all the best, but it has lost me as a reader.


  3. I grew up reading Vogue, but like Anon, I let my subscription lapse because I found the magazine too New York-centric. Beauty is so global now-a-days. I love magazines that take me on a tour of great beauty ideas and trends from around the world. I'd hate to see Vogue vanish, but it needs to embrace other centers of beauty, fashion, and culture; not just NY.

  4. Lady Jane, what a lovely way to end your work week!
    Vogue is very special to me, and I guess many others share this sentiment. The magic needs to go on.

  5. Mary, I know exactly what you mean about Vogue becoming a mirror for a very small segment. I live here and even I don't care about Tinsley Mortimer and her circle of friends.

  6. Eileen, I like the idea of global beauty. So much more interesting than the latest news from NYC plastic surgeons.

  7. I watched the movie 2 weekends ago. I agreed that Vogue should be save but they need better directions.

  8. I loved the movie, Gaia. My husband encouraged me to see it -- by myself. I was stunned by Grace's beauty and work ethic and the lovely way things worked out in her favor. But, I would really love to introduce her to some hair product. I had actually saved that issue, one of my favorites.

  9. I loved this movie, Gaia. I went to see it without my husband. I was impressed with Grace's talent and tenacity. She is truly beautiful, but, I would like to recommend some hair product. I liked the way things worked out in her favor. A lot of anxiety along the way, but a great ending and I still have that September issue!

  10. It's a 18 months since your original post and nothing has changed, in my opinion. Vogue is still dull, with minimal makeup coverage. I also let my subscription lapse years ago. I buy an issue when it features someone interesting like Elizabeth Warren, Michelle Obama, or some other figure outside of the fashion world in a fashion photo shoot and accompanying article. I frequently pick up British Vogue. It has interesting style coverage: it features the latest fashions, of course, but frequently features women who are stylish in theri own right, whether or not they are wearing the latest. It has printed photo stories showing what real professional women wear to work, including shots of those women in their offices; the handbag contents of prominent women in government and business; what women pack for holiday; stylish mother and daughter photo shoots in which these women wore interesting clothes they already own; interesting interviews of people in the fashion industry, and not just designers - they recently interviewed one of McQueen's teachers. BV covers accessories extensively, and feature pages of cosmetics, though I have to admit that these days I've usually seen most products on someone's blog before it shows up in the printed magazines. British Elle recently featured a layout pairing the latest fashions with the latest makeup. I'm frequently disappointed when we're only told "makeup by ____." I want to know what color it is! All of that said, yes, there should be an American Vogue. It just needs to be more imaginative.

  11. Ava, thank you for taking the time to comment. I hope the next editor brings something new to the magazine and inspires a change.


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