We took a busman’s holiday yesterday afternoon. Yes, the afternoon, at leisure, the two of us, much to the delight of my nephew and gallery colleague Jack Tremper, who gets to see more than he’d like of Keith and me.
The glories of our business, we never take time off, or seldom anyway, and when we do, we do things that are related to what we always do. A movie, yes, but not having had enough of the beautiful people who form the core of our business, we saw them distilled to their very essence in ‘The September Issue.’ For the benefit of those of you fashionistas who’ve been on a desert island for the last 6 months, the documentary is entirely devoted to the production, from concept through design and execution of the ‘big’ issue of the year for Vogue. Although most reviewers have focused on Anna Wintour, devil theorists may be interested, if not disappointed, to find that the magazine’s creative director Grace Coddington figures nearly as large. Moreover, though Wintour is the lightening rod, Coddington makes it happen.
We may be stepping way up in class, but I mention busman’s holiday in that, in our own little creative sphere, we are always interested to see how someone else does it, and what we might learn thereby. Given that we spent two hours in our workshop with our cabinet maker and a client this morning solely for the purpose of finalizing the carving on a six square inch area of a chairback- this is God’s honest truth- we have something of a feel for how subtle, tediously collaborative, and downright fiddly the creative process is.
While Wintour is famously regarded as less than warm, the people we know who are friends of hers are, incongruous as this seems, warm and friendly. I was therefore also keen to consider how she came across on film, and how that might then articulate with her relationships with others. In my own life, those people with whom I’ve established lasting friendships are those whose acquaintance, at first face, I didn’t particularly care for. Outspoken to the point of brusqueness seems to be a common feature of most of my nearest and dearest. My devoted readers may, or may not, find that this is a central feature of my own personality- or so Keith tells me, ad infinitem. With Anna Wintour, I found plenty to admire. Outspoken, but hardly loquacious, decisive, and confident in her own vision. In a business as fickle as fashion, who can argue with a vision that has yielded her successful 20 year tenure? And what a synchronic partnership with Grace Coddington, likewise outspoken, but friendly in a way that gets the most out of the no-doubt maddeningly fickle creative types whose constant and always disparate inputs are daily essential and concomitant feature to the running of the magazine.
It is this central constancy, in my opinion, that people find- well, I’ll say it- endearing. Knowing what to expect, face it, is comforting where erratic is not. With Vogue as the ultimate expression of the vision of Anna Wintour, while it may be exciting, it is never, as its readers comfortably realize, ever erratic.