What to Expect From the New Vogue Doc: The Directors Dish

We hopped on the phone with the directors of the new Vogue doc In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye to ask them what it was like to work with legends like Babs Simpson, Grace Coddington, Carlyne Cerf De Dudzeele, and, of course, Anna Wintour.
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Leah Chernikoff
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We hopped on the phone with the directors of the new Vogue doc In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye to ask them what it was like to work with legends like Babs Simpson, Grace Coddington, Carlyne Cerf De Dudzeele, and, of course, Anna Wintour.
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If the success of The September Issue has taught us anything, it's that people can't get enough of Vogue. And it's not so much the magazine itself that folks seem to have an endless hunger for, but the mystery and intrigue that surrounds it. Anna Wintour and her shades, the beautiful stoic Vogue editors--anything that gives Vogue-o-philes a glimpse at what goes down behind-the-scenes, what the people who work there are really like, is gobbled up. (See: The frenzied interest in Grace Coddington's memoirs, which wouldn't have been published if it weren't for her star turn in The September Issue.)

So what better way to celebrate Vogue's 120th, than with another documentary--another look at how the sausages get made at the fashion bible.

In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye premieres on HBO on Thursday, December 6, and serves as a companion to the coffee table book of the same name. But don't expect The September Issue: Part 2. "We can't go there," directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, who have worked on everything from The RuPaul Show to a documentary about furries, told us, "because The September Issue is such a brilliant film."

What you'll get instead is an intimate look at the editors who make the pictures at Vogue happen, done in traditional documentary format, spliced with images of vintage Vogue editorial and covers. There are also interviews with Vogue legends like Babs Simpson, Grace Coddington, Tonne Goodman, Phyllis Posnick, Jade Hobson, Carlyne Cerf De Dudzeele, Polly Mellen, Camilla Nickerson and, of course, Anna Wintour, about their most memorable shoots. Linda Evangelista ("Please, no supermodel questions," she says), Vera Wang (Polly Mellen's assistant at Vogue in 1971), and Sarah Jessica Parker also make charming cameos.

The Vogue editors past and present who star in this new doc are all formidable characters, though some pop more than others. Mellen calls herself the "spoiled brat of the fashion world" and Vera Wang doesn't sugarcoat her experience working for her, describing it as "Brutal, just brutal, absolutely brutal." Carlyne Cerf De Dudzeele hilariously art directs her own shoot while peppering her barely comprehensible Frenglish with many "J'ADOREs!" Another moment that's sure to delight is 99-year-old Babs Simpson's reaction to Vogue's latest Gaga-covered September issue: "Oh, well it’s just she looks so ugly, is it a boy or a girl?" she asked.

We hopped on the phone with the directors, Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, to ask them what it was like to work with these Vogue legends.

VOGUE/Annie Leibovitz

VOGUE/Annie Leibovitz

Fashionista: So you guys have done a lot of interesting work that's very non-Vogue--like documentaries about porn and furries. What was it like to get into this world, that to many people, seems very rarefied? Fenton: That is the weird disconnect. Because the popular perception is that it's this rarefied, snooty, elite, Devil Wears Prada-type world, and that wasn't really what we experienced at all. The fashion editors themselves...didn't necessarily want to be in front of the camera. That was surprising to us because we thought they'd been around photographers and on set all day and we just assumed they would love to be in front of the camera, and actually many of them are former models. So surprisingly, many of them didn't want to be in front of the cameras, but mainly because they were just very busy and very passionate about what they did, almost to a level of geekiness.

Women who have worked for these editors have stories, sometimes horror stories--like Vera Wang. What was it like to be with all these women who, for people who've worked for them, inspire both awe and fear? Randy: Well I think they're very precise and they're very direct. There were times where they would just tell us not to film. But to me, if they were men, I think we would react differently. I think they are incredibly busy, successful women who are focused on the task at hand...We saw no shoes flying through the hallways or temper tantrums, but I'm sure if we stayed there 24/7 we would have seen that.

So Anna Wintour is in the film, but it's not really about her. What was it like working with her and how did you decide how much she would be featured? Fenton: You know, she didn't want to be in it! No one wanted to be in this film! [Laughs] Again, [working with her] was surprising and against everything we were led to believe. She was so warm and funny and engaged and open.

Randy: There were no ground rules, it just was what it was. I think the genesis of her participation in the film, it just was a collaborative process. If we had questions, people at Vogue were accessible to us, and often we would send her notes and ask her questions, so she and Hamish became incredibly valuable resources for us...Anna is a very smart woman so obviously she thought about her presentation. But I have to say the actual process of the interview, it was incredibly laid back and casual. Fenton and I have made lots of films with lots of frosty, uptight people who've dismissed half the crew before we started. Faye Dunaway... There was none of that.