{monday muse: the september issue...}


when i set out to write the next post for the monday muse series, my goal was to write a piece about anna wintour, editor in chief of (american) vogue. i started reading vogue when i was thirteen and the publication has been a source of inspiration (and escape) ever since. when i was young, i would spend hours tearing pages out of each issue and creating collages on my bedroom wall. thus, i couldn't think of a better monday muse than the woman responsible for each issue's creation, and my favorite teenage pastime. 
to ready myself for the task of writing such a post, i purchased the behemoth septempber issue (904 pages - the largest issue in vogue's history) and watched the documentary of the same name. i was prepared for wintour's unyielding work ethic and "icy" personality (we've all seen the devil wears prada, right?). however, something new that i learned, among other things, was proof that wintour is a true visionary. for example, before any other publication, wintour decisively stopped using super models on the cover of vogue and instead began using celebrities, foreseeing the rise of celebrity culture in our society. she also created the cfda awards so that lesser known, up-and-coming designers would stand a chance of surviving in the competitive world of fashion.

something i wasn't prepared for was... 






grace coddington, vogue's creative director and stylist extraordinaire. coddington is the master behind many of the most beautifully styled shoots in the publication (the escape factor i mentioned above). as wintour remarks, "grace is a genius and there's no one that can visualize a picture or understand the direction of fashion or produce a great shoot. it's just remarkable." [1]

coddington started in the fashion business when a family friend entered her photo in a modeling contest, and she won. she went on to experience many successful years as a model until her career was stopped short by a car accident in 1961. her face went through the passenger mirror and she suffered a lacerated eyelid. she underwent major plastic surgery and was back to work after only two years. however, upon returning, coddington realized it was time to move on from modeling and decided "styling seemed like a fun, easy job..." [2] and a career was born.


not only was i taken by coddington's back story, i was inspired by her charming personality and sheer passion for art and the fashion world. her goal is to meld the two worlds in any shoot she creates, and her breadth of knowledge for art history is astounding. riding in a town car through paris, coddington reflects, "i never dreamt of being a model. i never, never dreamt of being a fashion editor, but i just love the pages and pictures. in my early years as a fashion editor, i worked for norman parkinson, whose a really big photographer. he taught me to always keep your eyes open. never go to sleep in the car or anything like that…always keep watching because whatever you see, be it out the window or wherever, it can inspire you." [3] 

in the end, this monday muse made a surprising turn. what i first thought would be a post about anna wintour unexpectedly turned into a post about two inspiring women - wintour and coddington. i found myself captivated by each woman's strength and undying conviction for their work and art. "[coddington] admits that both she and wintour are stubborn, adding, 'i know when to stop pushing her, but she doesn't know when to stop pushing me.'" [4] their management styles couldn't be any more different from one another and this constant battle between wintour and coddington is seen throughout the movie. coddington is unwavering in her defense for her work and to ensure that her point of view is heard. her confidence is simply inspiring. it had me thinking...

do you think having someone push you is conducive to your best work? have you ever worked for someone who was difficult, but whom you ultimately respected? have you seen the september issue?


quote source: [1] & [3] the september issue / [2] moreintelligentlife.com / [4] gawker.com
image source, all styling by grace coddignton: carey mulligan photographed by peter lindbergh for the october 2010 issue of vogue / drew barrymore photographed by annie leibovitz for the april 2005 issue of vogue

18 Send Me Your Thoughts:

  1. They have such a unique work experience - it's tough to disagree yet respect each other and turn that into an environment of creative collaboration.  It's funny that some of the criticism leveraged against Vogue is the 'celebrity' cover and that the magazine should really be focusing on fashion.  I wonder if that's what has allowed the magazine to be as successful as it has been though.  I've got the humongous September on my coffee table right now, all tabbed to hell! 

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  2. What an inspiring partnership. I recently read the 2012 September issue too - it's so heavy, I felt like I had had a nice little arm work out afterwards. I love the quote about always looking ... I think I'll take that into the week with me. 

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  3. Interesting stuff T.  I almost bought a copy at the Airport last week but stopped myself because I had an armful of US interiors magazines that were weighing me down so decided I couldn't carry another brick.

    I worked for someone in the past who was difficult, but not in a positive way.  They were so controlling that people were not able to do their job, including me.  So, so demoralising.  I left within a year. 

    I do think it's useful to have someone over your shoulder pushing you on, they would push our barriers before we do of ourselves.  I think a mentor of some description would be wonderful, as I know you do x

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  4. The September Issue sent my dad (thankfully) out to get me a subscription to Vogue immediately! Go Dad! I love it. Best carpool reading ever! I had exactly your reaction to that documentary, an absolute breathtakingly surprising falling head over heels for Grace. It really is Anna and Grace, isn't it? It's their creative tension that drives the publication. But, oh Grace! I love how I can pick out her spreads now.

    And how interesting your question about working for difficult people. To me, it's all in the relationship. I have worked for difficult people whose respect I've known I've had and for whom I've desired to work harder. Most recently I've worked for someone I've cared for deeply but who (for whatever reason) couldn't "manage" me respectfully. Who was instead, demeaning and belittling. I'm not sure she even knows it! But despite what may have been my best efforts, she didn't get my best work. I'm not sure she will.

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  5. I loved this documentary when I saw it, it made me really respect Anna Wintour more because it showed how involved she got in every single issue. I have odd feelings when it comes to Grace; on one hand I love her style and respect her aesthetic and believe she really is so integral to the magazine, and on the other hand I just want her to put some conditioner in her hair and stop wearing those giant black muumuus! You work at Vogue! But that's just me being shallow ;)
    I can thankfully say I haven't worked for anyone too difficult, although my last boss definitely took me for granted and didn't appreciate all the work I did there, but that really gets into the whole office culture of that place, where it's perfectly acceptable to send someone to India on 4 days notice (yes, ahem, Boyfriend and I met at work :)

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  6. I, too, have been reading Vogue since my teens. In fact, it is the main reason that I became a fashion designer, so captivated was I by the world that existed in its glossy pages. Such glorious escapism! :D

    I got the documentary for my birthday a few years ago and found it very insightful despite being an "insider" of sorts myself. Even my husband who isn't into fashion at all found it fascinating. 

    The relationship between Coddington and Wintour clearly produces great work but it's on such a knife edge that you wonder when it'll all end in a dramatic, fur-flying row! :D

    "have you ever worked for someone who was difficult, but whom you ultimately respected?"
    Oh, honey the fashion industry is full of them! :D
    It's one of the reasons why I didn't relish the prospect of working for someone, especially after the birth of my daughter.

    I find the draconian approach to be a lot more counter-productive than most designers realize and fear simply isn't respect.

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  7. I much as we loath to think it, I'm pretty sure Wintour's decision to embrace the celebrity culture has helped the magazine survive and succeed (where so many have bit the dust).

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  8. Hee-hee, now I totally understand why you're smitten with Coddington.

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  9. I love that quote too! I had to rewind the movie a handful of times to ensure I correctly wrote it down. 

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  10. I also worked for someone in the past who was very difficult and demoralizing. In fact, it was two women at the same time. I didn't know which to spit unless they told me exactly how to do it, and then I still didn't do it right.
    I feel the same as you about getting a solid mentor. I think I would really benefit from such a relationship, one where the person is pushing you outside of the comfort zone and you're realizing your fullest potential.

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  11. Aw, proving once again that your dad is a champ. Lauren, I totally forgot to thank you for the recommendation. It was at your urging that I finally made time to see this movie. It's right up my alley and I enjoyed every bit of it. Of course, all my favorite editorials were created by Grace...Though, I didn't realize this fact until I watched the movie and then did research on her work.
    Oh, Lauren, I feel for you. I know that was a difficult period for you. I mentioned to Sam below that a few years back, when I was working, my Supervisor and the Supervisor above her were the most belittling women I ever worked for. I'm pretty sure, in their minds, they thought they were in the right. But, it's all in the approach and how you choose to speak to people that makes all the difference.

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  12. You're so funny, Erin! You know, I had that feeling about many of the editors who were sans makeup most of the time and wore very simple outfits (though, they were probably of very high quality). I chalked it up to being too busy and having no time to care. ;)
    You've been to India? Somehow that fact went over my head. Anyway, happy you got out of that toxic environment and are in a better one.

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  13. "Knife edge" is right! I thought I heard inklings that Coddington was leaving, but that must have been a horrible rumor. (Thank goodness!)
    I had  a feeling that the fashion industry might be full of difficult personalities. I would like to believe that it's because people are so passionate about their art/fashion. I suspect ego and cut-throat competitiveness are more at play.

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  14. two amazing and inspiring women. beautifully written t. xx

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  15. Trying from my iPad...

    A great post T. I'm glad you watched the SI. It's really inspiring and I felt the same way about Grace!
    Many years ago I was at a talk of 'Vogue' Magazine and they discussed how they create the September Issue. It was really interesting and eye opening! The drama, the politics, the stress. And yest, the incredible team work!

    For me, Grace was the star of the SI but I'm sure both Grace and Anna compliment each other perfectly. It's that killer combination!
    What I also find inspiring is the longevity of both women in their jobs. It must be true love and passion for their craft. I do think Grace is a genius. Aren't we the lucky ones she couldn't carry on modelling?

    I do believe that mentoring and pushing people to be the best they can is a positive thing, if done with sensitivity and for the good of the person. I tend to push rather than be pushed:) i don't have full-time employees but a group of people I use for different projects as and when. No doubt they would tell you I expect exellence:)
    I would have loved more mentoring when I was younger. I think that would have made things easier for me. The upside: I had to learn everything the hard way and that's not such a bad thing either!

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  16. Very inspiring. I think I 'm going to have to watch this documentary now. I like the idea of keeping your eyes open. I remind myself all the time to pay attention. Inspiration is everywhere. But I think there's something to be said about closing your eyes as well. I think this gives a chance for your brain to consolidate all that information and stimuli and for connections to be made. 

    Great Monday Muse :)

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