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In Vogue

Michaela Bercu. Photo © Peter Lindbergh.

Countless iconic and unexpected photographs have graced the pages of Vogue over the past 120 years, but the story of how those images are made is one that has not yet been told. That all changed on December 6 with HBO’s documentary “In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye,” directed and produced by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, which gives an insider’s look into the magazine through interviews with its dream team of editors, past and present.

Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey. Photo by Mathu Andersen.

“We talked to pretty much every fashion editor that’s living and has ever been involved with Vogue,” Bailey said.

Among those featured is current editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and fashion editors such as Grace Coddington, Tonne Goodman, Camilla Nickerson and Phyllis Posnick.

Jade Hobson, Babs Simpson, Phyllis Posnick, Carlyne Cerf De Dudzeele (Bottom Middle), Polly Mellen, Grace Coddington, Camilla Nickerson and Tonne Goodman. Photo © Annie Leibovitz.

According to the co-directors, Babs Simpson, a former fashion editor who will turn 100 years old next year, was one of the most striking interviewees.

“Randy [Barbato] showed her the cover shot of Lady Gaga and Babs was like, ‘Ah, it’s so ugly!,’” Bailey recalled. “Now this is a woman who photographed Marilyn Monroe just weeks before she died, so it spans an incredible period of time. Even though she’s [almost] 100 years old, she has incredibly insatiable curiosity.”

Marie-Lise. Photo © William Klein.

Another veteran editor who took Bailey and Barbato by surprise was Carlyne Cerf De Dudzeele.

“She’s the most extraordinary French aristocrat with the most amazing potty mouth,” Bailey said candidly. “Before she let us interview her, she completely rearranged the interview setup and redressed the set.”

This hardly comes as a surprise, as Vogue editors are more than familiar with commanding a shoot. In one scene, Posnick reveals how she once imported live bees for a fashion spread, and in the issue, one is pictured resting on a model’s orange-stained pout.

Photo © Irving Penn, The Irving Penn Foundation.

Yet when asked to explain the job of a fashion editor, many of the big names struggled to find the words. In the film, fiery-haired creative director Grace Coddington scoffs, “If you don’t know now I guess you never will. Haven’t you spoken to everyone?” After a long pause, Posnick answers, “I can’t answer that question. It would take too long.”

After spending some amount of time in the presence of the editorial talent, Bailey had some insights himself.

Stella Tennant. Photo © Steven Meisel.

“These women are like movie directors,” he said. “They’re responsible for casting, choosing the locations, thinking about the clothes. They have a hand in everything and these are incredibly strong formidable characters, each with their own completely different unique version.”

Perhaps Oscar-winning actress and Vogue cover star Nicole Kidman, also featured, says it best, “They give us access to another world. They give us access to dreams.”

Credits: Photos courtesy of HBO.