The 5 Lessons of Vogue

You expect ‘The September Issue’ to show you something specific. Specifically the world of fashion, the trivial pursuits of looking good and the mad dash to look better than someone else (because, really, fashion is always relative…and circular).

I own the docu-film and have re-watched it numerous times despite it annoying me so much in parts.

I finally realised this evening that I re-watch it so much because it reminds me, it brings me home, to some of the most important lessons of Art-making.

1. It’s all about the collaboration…

For a documentary supposedly focused on the woman at the helm of Vogue, the helmet-haired and tight-lipped Anna Wintour, the real heroine of the piece is Senior Stylist Grace Coddington. The point of this film is how these two greats of the magazine world work together, the push-and-pull of Anna’s ruthless eye for the business of print media and Grace’s Artistic sensibilities. She’s the talent behind the ‘big name’ and Wintour pretty much admits it in the final minute of the film. This documentary is entirely about collaboration and the dynamics of art-making when more than one viewpoint must be respected.

2. Are you prepared to stand-up for what you make?

Grace Coddington has a fit on camera when she realises that her spread is being cut. She bears her teeth and the depth of passion for what it is she creates is disarmingly obvious. You see just how much of herself is invests in the clothes she picks, the scenes she curates, the vision she wants to communicate. You see just how much it hurts when her vision isn’t respected. No need to ask where she gets the nerve to push back again the most respected editor in fashion or where she gets the energy to keep creating even when it has all been cut. She admits it’s hard to pick yourself up again but she doesn’t quit. She believes in what she creates.

3. Grow an Opinion

Oh man! After watching Coddington standing up for her vision and giving cheek to Anna Wintour, the rest of the Vogue team look like they might burst into tears if Wintour looks directly at them. When looking at spreads everyone is suddenly in complete agreement with Wintour, oblivious to the fact that they just stated something completely different on camera two seconds earlier. The words ‘maybe‘, ‘kind of‘ and ‘eh, well Anna said…‘ should be banned they’re used so often.

I like people with opinions, even if their opinions are completely different from my own. Bland and agreeable do not serve me when I’m pushing to create something remarkable. A bit of honesty, kindly given preferably, is what I’m looking for.

4. Keep your eyes open

Grace Coddington, while being taxied around Paris, talks about how she was advised early on in her career to never read or zone out on the move because you never know what you might see.

This is just plain everyday good advise for a society that’s obsessed with multitasking. Paying attention fuels your creative reserves because it’s life that inspires Art. Yes, I realise the irony in needing a film to remind me to pay attention to life!

5. Having a Point of View makes everything easier

Love her or loathe her, Anna Wintour has a perspective that is all her own. Knowing it strengthens her when others belittle her work. Her point of view steers a ship as colossal as the fashion industry itself and since it’s her own it is always the right direction, she is always being truthful to herself, no second guessing. It seems somewhat simplistic or obvious, even wrong somehow, and yet… How refreshing would that be in your life? She had made it so that, in her world, she is always right!


6. Make freakin’ sure that you have something more to come home to than a (albeit beautiful) bookshelf filled with with your magazines, and more work. There is more to life that work, fashion, even (dare I say it?!) Art. Don’t get swallowed up. Even if you love your work. Yes, you need to do it, follow your potential, release the beauty/message/experience into the world. But you can’t take it with you when it’s all said and done.

Just something to think about…

One response to “The 5 Lessons of Vogue

  1. Maya-Rose Chauhan

    Love this post! I saw the docco several years ago and was totally engrossed in the drama. Loved Grace, felt undecided about Anna and was touched when the latter was talking about what her brothers and sisters do in comparison with her work (ie. work for the UN and other such jobs). All of a sudden she seemed so sad and almost ashamed of her work. Wow!

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