Over the weekend, a colleague and I watched The Devil Wears Prada and The September Issue back-to-back. The two were released three years apart; the former in 2006 and the latter in 2009. The former, while based on reality, is highly stylised and fictionalised; while the latter is a documentary.
First thing’s first–the fashion industry is not the beauty industry. In many ways, it’s anything but.
Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue, is far from oblivious to how people view the world of fashion. Despite the magazine’s enormous and long-standing success, Wintour admits that even her own family makes fun of the work she does. This is in spite of how seriously Wintour takes the work she does.
There is a seasonal cycle when it comes to fashion and, in particular, to magazine publishing in general. Magazines choose celebrities, influencers, models, singers–or the most influential people in the fashion world–for their September covers.
Vogue was founded in 1892 and over the years it has become the most influential magazine in the fashion industry. One of the reasons for its success is that the magazine brings one of the freshest points of view in the fashion world, as the magazine covers current issues.
On the other hand, the film The Devil Wears Prada, while accurate in some regards; is essentially a story about an intern’s ambitions before she gets hit with a high dose of reality. Would you sell your soul for success and so on… In the end, the movie’s answer is no.
But then again, protagonist Andy Sachs as played by Anne Hathaway never wanted to be a fashion writer in the first place. Her dream was to work for The New Yorker.
Perhaps it is stories like these–fiction with a splash of fact–that lead to confusion, cynicism and ridicule regarding the fashion industry. The whole ‘Would you sell your soul to get ahead’ is trite, especially when it relates to any profitable industry.
When Wintour assumed control of the franchise’s magazine in New York, she revived what was then a stagnating publication. If this genius of Wintour had been focused upon in The Devil Wears Prada, it would have led to a lesson or two that may have been valuable to the audience. By focusing on the details of Wintour’s demanding and exacting personality, we–the audience–are left with a sense of ‘Buyer Beware’.
Anna Wintour is not without her critics. Her use of the magazine to shape the fashion industry has been the subject of debate. Animal rights activists have attacked her for promoting fur. Others have charged her with using the magazine to promote elitist views of femininity and beauty.
But I come back to the point I started with–one that became apparent as I watched the documentary The September Issue–that the fashion industry is not the beauty industry. If it were, then we would all find it beautiful.
If anything, the fashion industry is about style and appearance. But then again, if The Devil Wears Prada is anything to go by, then we know that things are simply not as they appear.