The September Issue’s Vogue Is Much Different From Today’s Vogue

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R.J. Cutler's documentary about Vogue, The September Issue, chronicles the making of the 2007 edition of that magazine. You remember 2007, when people had jobs and wallets so flush with money they didn't think twice about spending $1,500 on a beaded clutch that could barely fit two credit cards, much less a BlackBerry. At 840 pages, Vogue put out its largest issue ever two years ago. Photo shoots that cost $150,000 were killed and reshot. But now budget cuts of 15 percent have been enacted across all Condé Nast magazines. McKinsey has been hired to find more ways to cut budgets. Ad pages are down. What does this all mean? The September Issue is a lie.

Now Vogue editors are looking at price tags. They're trying to print articles about budget-minded shopping, encouraging readers to, say, choose the $700 bag instead of the $1,500 bag. The Times reports Condé editors are nervous about McKinsey enacting more budget cuts. What if they can't spend $5,000 for food on a photo shoot? What if they can't have 30 photographic assistants on hand? Already fewer editors are expected to attend the shows in Europe. One editor told the Times, “It’s the fear of the great unknown: What if their consultants really question the culture we live in at Condé Nast?” As the outside world has done for years? Unthinkable. Cathy Horyn writes that Vogue will probably be safe for the most part:

Vogue is about wish fulfillment and escapism, so it can’t be expected to really change its stripes. It can’t be Marie Claire. A publicist for Mr. Cutler said he was unavailable to comment on the economic climate that will greet his film. But if his hope was to capture the heightened atmosphere of expectation at Vogue, with editors and photographers trying to meet Ms. Wintour’s demands while the industry bent in submission, then maybe he lucked out with his timing. Everything has now changed.


But that doesn't exactly mean the film's not relevant or worth seeing. Because, like the puppies in the Valentino documentary, watching André Leon Talley roll up to his tennis lesson with about five Louis Vuitton gym bags and then attempt to hit the ball with a cumbersome Louis Vuitton beach towel wrapped around his neck, amid grunting, squealing, and minor flailing, will always feel important.

Still Fearless at Vogue? [NYT]