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September 11, 2009
A wintery Wintour in 'The September Issue'


Word on 7th Avenue is that legendary Vogue editor Anna Wintour holds the $300-billion global fashion industry in her slim grip.

After seeing the just-released documentary "The September Issue," I feel safe in saying she holds the hearts (and other body parts) of not only the industry but the people who work for her, too.

The film, which opens today at the Crest Theatre (downtown Sacramento) and the Century (Roseville), chronicles the putting together of the 2007 September issue of the magazine, the largest ever (more than 4 pounds, more than 800 pages). The filmmaker, R.J. Cutler ("The War Room"), was given once-in-a-lifetime access to the real-life inner workings of the magazine - especially the notoriously tight-lipped Wintour (pictured).

After seeing this film, I totally get why actress Meryl Streep was so highly praised for her role as "Miranda," the editor in chief of the fictional fashion magazine Runway in 2006's "The Devil Wears Prada." It's no secret that the movie (and book by the same name) were supposedly based on Wintour and Vogue.

"The September Issue" only confirms what outsiders might have heard about Wintour: She's tough, difficult, restrained and, as publisher Tom Florio, eloquently puts it: "If you want warm, that's me."

In one scene, a reporter asks Wintour - dressed in heavy attire - why people refer to her as the "ice woman." Her quick response? "Well, it is cold outside today."

Moviegoers see lots of Wintour's trademark bob and dark glasses, but I found it interesting that she doesn't appear to be a big fan of the traditional dark attire many fashion editors covet. She's seen a lot in florals and prints. And, unlke the pristine offices in "Devil," only Wintour's office digs are that nice. Most of the other editors and writers are in cramped quarters, and the hallways are jammed with clothing racks and boxes of belts and bags.

I've been a fan of Vogue since I was a teen. And, like so many devotees, I turn to its pages every month for fashion direction. After all, Wintour is seen as the force who can make or break a designer's collection, and the person stores like Neiman Marcus turn to to get their shipments delivered on time.

She wields that much power.

But what you will learn from "The September Issue" is that the real beating heart of the magazine is certainly not Wintour's but that of creative director Grace Coddington, who joined the magazine in 1988 - the same year Wintour became editor.

A former model from Wales, Coddington isn't well-known to readers except by name. By the end of the film, you realize it's her vision and amazing talent that moves the magazine from season to season, issue to issue.

Interestingly, that ginormous issue two years ago has not been equaled. In fact, the September 2009 issue of Vogue was a measly 584 pages. But Wintour gets the last quip: A headline at the bottom of the cover (with Charlize Theron) says, "In the REAL September Issue!"

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