In Vogue: The Editor's Eye
The fashion world is abuzz over In Vogue: The Editor's Eye. The new doc, which premiered December 6 and will air throughout the month on HBO, is an unprecedented look into the magazine's archive, which goes back 120 years. The film also reveals the personalities who put the groundbreaking fashion shoots together. The Editor's Eye is a double-edged celebration of artistry in fashion photography and the magic that editors make happen.
Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey, who co-directed and co-produced the film, have a rich history in films and TV shows that are either about style or are simply very stylish, from the documentary series "Hollywood Fashion Machine" to the reality show "Rupaul's Drag Race."
Style Network: A few years ago, the documentary The September Issue took us behind the scenes at Vogue. How does In Vogue: The Editor's Eye differ?
Randy Barbato: We love The September Issue. But this was never going to be a follow-up. It's not verite. Sheila Nevins, from HBO, asked us if we were interested in making a documentary to coincide the Vogue's 120-year celebration.The book Vogue: The Editor's Eye was coming out, and we decied to tap into that. There's a lot of archive photosgraphy in our film and interviews with the editors. It looks at the fashion editors past and present at Vogue—the foot soldiers of fashion. Each has her own personality, and that comes out in the photo shoots they do.
Fenton Bailey: What we learned is that the editor is like a movie director. They decide the concept, the story, the art direction, the cast, the costumes and the scenery of what is ultimately a frozen movie. Their idea and sensibility infuses the whole thing. Phyllis Posnick is sort of Miss Precision. Grace Coddington is the wild romantic with the flaming red hair. Camilla Nickerson is this anti-fashion fashionista who always turns an idea on its head. And Tonne Goodman is the American Woman—because there are so many Brits at American Vogue.
Style Network: There's so much mystique about Vogue. What surprised you once you were in those hallowed halls?
Randy Barbato: The perception is that Vogue is elitist, and that's because it used to be a society magazine that serviced and was about the elite. But if you look at its 120-year history you see it becoming more accessible. When it comes to the editors themselves, you would expect them to be slavishly fashionable and perhaps superficial. But what we found is they are work horses and they are not necessarily always dressed to a T. They are very passionate—as much about art as about fashion.
Style Network: A lot of people don't understand what an editor actually does.
Fenton Bailey: The process of the photo shoot is less interesing than one might imagine because so much work has been done in preparation. Polly Mellen told us about a famous shoot with Nastassja Kinski. She had arranged for all the clothes, but before the shoot she had also asked Kinski if there was anything in particular she liked. And Kinski said "snakes." So they brought in a snake. And on the set, Richard Avedon said, "Would you mind doing this in the nude?" And Kinski said, "Fine." The snake curved right around her and stuck its tongue toward her ear. That just happened. You prepare, you prepare, you prepare...and something happens that you can't pre-produce.
Style Network: Anna Wintour is famous for her cold demeanor, and The September Issue didn't dispel that. Is there any proof you can offer me that she's human?
Randy Barbato: The laughs a lot. She's incredibly funny.
Fenton Bailey: She has this very droll sense of humor. It's hard to reconcile that public image with the person that you meet. She's warm and funny.
I'm not convinced. Can you give me a specific example?
Fenton Bailey: Um...
Randy Barbato: Um... The perception of her being cold and closed-off is just her editing—a way to edit out the clutter to keep things on point.
Style Network: That warms the cockles of my heart. Thanks.
>>Click though the gallery at left to meet the stars of In Vogue: The Editor's Eye and for more insight from the film's directors.