The Devil Reads Vogue?

The Devil Wears PradaI’ve never understood the obsession with and reverence to Vogue. Frankly, I’ve always found there to be too many ads and not enough coherently-strung-together words. That and the ‘fashion’ contained within the pages is so preposterous, expensive, and un-wearable I’ve never been convinced that they’re not taking the p&%s.

I did, however, surprisingly enjoy both the book and the film adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada—guilty, simple-carbohydrate reading and viewing pleasures that both appealed to my sense of Vogue’s over-the-top ridiculousness and indulged my abject, albeit disconnected, fascination with magazines in general.

This impression was probably helped by the fact that I was at the time having my own devil-wears-Prada moment in an all-consuming, high-pressure work situation that I thankfully extricated myself from some months later.

But even I couldn’t resist gaining some insight into the arctic Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour courtesy of The September Issue. I mean, who doesn’t want to know if she’s really as influential and as scary as they make out?

It took me until this Friday night just past to get round to watching the fly-on-the-wall documentary, and I was desperate to know how close The Devil Wears Prada was to the ‘real’ story of Wintour. And I say ‘real’, because you never can know how much the camera got to see or how much the documentary shows.

What struck me first was how the positioning of Wintour’s desk was identical. Small stuff, yes, but striking for me nonetheless. I quickly realised what a Vogue rookie I was, though—the September issue is not just one of 12 they do a year; it’s a full-blown, highly anticipated magazine extravaganza.

Fans and media alike salivate over the ultimate annual issue, which grows in size and scale each year and which one designer quipped would soon be a ‘phone book’. I kind of think that’s not an entirely bad thing and that the breathless excitement that surrounds it is not dissimilar to that that accompanies the release of a Harry Potter (or similarly popular installation of a long-running series).

I was also amazed that despite Wintour getting all the press, she was far from the most talented or even the star of the show. That mantle is held by Grace Coddington, the creative genius behind the best of Vogue and whose brilliant work Wintour seemingly regularly threw out. Was it just me, or did you start to doubt Wintour’s taste watching the film? Did you start to wonder just how good the magazine could be were Coddington at the helm?

What also amazed me was that despite my meh-ness about Vogue (seriously, they won’t ever attract me as a reader unless they ditch some ads and couture and deliver some intelligent, world-changing content) was how caught up I got in the work that goes into the making of the publication. It’s something I’m a part of daily, but the amount of work that goes into something that appears small or seamless and that in coming together often in the nick of time continues to blow my mind.

I was also reminded that my jury’s still out when it comes to magazine reading. I see it as a secret (and secretively-carried-out) indulgence that’s slotted in ever so occasionally between reading ‘serious’ non-fiction tomes that skewer the world’s problems and that often simultaneously depress and inspire me.

But I’m wondering if that view is misguided or misplaced? We all enjoy a good mag (even if Vogue isn’t my first or ever choice) and I perhaps shouldn’t consider such reading devilish. After all, any reading is good reading, isn’t it? Can we have our books and mags and read them too?