In our offices we’re inspired by women working to kick-ass, we’re inspired by people who fight adversity, we’re inspired by game-changers. But I have to say, the most inspiring documentary we’ve watched recently is Absolutely Fashion: Inside British Vogue.
Why? Because it’s access all areas, it challenges the perception we have of what goes on inside Vogue and it shows you the raw, real life of working so hard on a publication. We can relate, on a smaller scale of course.
When documentary maker Richard Macer entered the Vogue HQ to shoot the documentary, he lamented that it was ‘intimidating’ and that the employees were polite but distant. But the episode was engrossing, nonetheless.
We met some major players and saw what goes into creating a cover issue of Vogue. For anyone interested in entrepreneurship, business, managing people, writing, or creativity it is really useful. Here are a few things we learned:
1. To be a good leader you can’t be liked
“You can’t expect people to like you,” the editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman says in a poignant moment. It is isolating, to be ‘in charge’, but she’s not lonely. She hires people who are brave enough to challenge her, but Richard notes that nobody ever does.
2. No job is easy
Even being a model, like Kate Moss. She is presented as a ‘concept’, not a person, so dressed, pulled, pinched and pushed into the image that best suits the theme. Funnily enough her personality doesn’t seem to line up with the image we see of her, she is softly spoken and shy at talking about herself. Her body and face look remarkably normal for a supermodel who’s been on the front cover of Vogue 37 times.
3. Always carry a notebook with you
Fashion director Lucinda Chambers has a notebook on her lap constantly, she notes that New York reminded her of lego, she sketches the runway instead of snaps it, she has a curious quality that isn’t often found these days. She has been at Vogue for 36 years and remembers the days of people with their feet on the desk smoking cigarettes. No tight deadlines. She’s pretty inspiring.
4. Trust the editor’s vision
The editor-in-chief Alexandra and the creative director Jaime Perlman clashed over the front cover choice featuring Kate Moss. Jaime liked a more heroic image with Kate draped in a Union Jack, Alexandra hated it and thought it wouldn’t sell well. The whole team voted in favor of Jaime’s choice, but when it was presented to the partners at Condé Nast, Alexandra’s choice was king. Inevitably she knows what will sell and isn’t afraid to put across her views.
5. Everyone starts somewhere
In the documentary, we see Mario Testino, one of the greatest photographers in the world, working on the front cover. He is close friends with fashion director Lucinda and shares the same free-spirited qualities as she does. He admits that when he first started working he couldn’t afford lunch so would visit Lucinda at 1pm and eat using her luncheon voucher. Everybody starts somewhere.
6. Alexandra’s mother worked for Vogue, too
In a sweet look into Alexandra’s life, Drusilla, her mother, shared a few insights about her daughter. She said part of her success comes from her ability to compartmentalize a problem. A unique quality that means she doesn’t struggle with difficulties only tackles them when she can.
7. There is competition, and it’s fiery
It’s no secret that the media industry is full of competition, but what surprised us all was the competition between American Vogue and British Vogue. Alexandra pulled an entire cover in order to get ahead of Anna Wintour when she discovered Anna was planning on using Rihanna on the front cover ahead of the British Vogue’s planned schedule. I wonder what Anna will say when she sees it? It was all very tense.
Watch the episodes here, and let us know if you’re as engrossed as we are!