September 08, 2016

Liveblogging the BBC British Vogue Documentary

When I was a first-year MA Fashion student at Central Saint Martins, I interned at British Vogue. I loved it. It was the fanciest experience of my life up until that point. So. I have three stories to file before I'm allowed to go to bed (and, subsequently, allowed to go shopping tomorrow morning), but it's 9 p.m. and the BBC's British Vogue documentary is about to start, so I thought I'd liveblog that instead. Here's the trailer the network released last week:

The documentary was filmed by Richard Macer over the course of nine months, beginning in September 2015.

9 p.m.: Opens with Alex Shulman on February 9, 2016 at the National Portrait Gallery in London celebrating 100th birthday of British Vogue. "She is one of the most powerful women in the fashion industry," Macer says. "Vogue is a world where things are not quite what they seem."

Flashback to six months earlier.

9:02 p.m.: September 2015 - Macer enters Vogue House on Hanover Square. He goes to the fifth floor, Vogue's offices. Shulman is on vacation, so isn't there to greet him. He goes into her office anyway. Then he films in the fashion closet, where Lucinda Chambers is looking at the rail of pulls for Samuel L. Jackson.

9:05 p.m.: Now he's backstage at a show at New York Fashion Week. He's following Shulman around. She's wearing a yellow skirt, visiting Victoria Beckham in her showroom. Apologizes for missing VB's show. They make small talk about family stuff before VB walks Shulman around the showroom and talks through the clothes. "So, I mean, playing with different proportions—there's definitely a relaxed thing about this collection," VB says.

9:07 p.m.: Lucinda Chambers is walking through the office. She sits for an interview. She's been at Vogue for 36 years. "Unlike for a musician or an actor or film director, where you have a body of work. You have that body of work and you are as good as that body of work. You've got a longevity. In fashion, it's very quick to decide if you're in or your out. It can be over very quickly. And then it's almost as if you have nothing," she explains. "You're making things redundant all the time, you're making things relevant all the time, but in a very superficial way."

9:09 p.m.: Macer VOs about how the office feels closed and guarded to him. "It must be strange being a man working for Vogue," he says. "The women dominate."

9:10 p.m.: He's in Hammersmith and we meet Fiona Golfar, Editor at Large. They get in a car with the photographer, Mary McCartney. They're talking about shooting a portfolio of a dozen-plus Hollywood stars who are shooting in London. Something about the aftermath of shooting, something about burgers and beers. McCartney says that people don't often ask about her father, Paul.

9:12 p.m.: Now they're on set. There's a bed and a celebrity on the bed. I think it's Hugh Jackman, but I'm not sure.

9:14 p.m.: Cue London Fashion Week street style b-roll. September 20th - Macer is off to London, Milan, and Paris. Now they're walking through a field. Now they're in a Benz. Chambers explains her process: she doesn't go to the New York shows, and she says as she's going through the photos from the shows, she's already "identifying stories." She calls New York Fashion Week a "Lego moment." She keeps notebooks with story ideas and photographer ideas. When she pitched the Lego idea to Shulman, "She didn't respond."

9:16 p.m: Now they're front row at a show. I think it's Erdem, but I'm not sure. "It takes your heart somewhere else, it takes your imagination elsewhere, out of yourself," Chambers explains about the feeling of going to shows.

9:17 p.m.: "I can't get over how chaotic the fashion shows are," Macer says. Now he talks about traffic problems and being late for everything. "Sometimes you'll see up to 10 shows in a day. By the end of the season, she'll have sat through more than 150 catwalks." Chambers eats a hot dog for lunch at London Fashion Week.

9:18 p.m.: Now they're with Stefano Gabbana before the Dolce & Gabbana show. He's walking Shulman through the run of show and showing her Polaroids.

9:19 p.m.: Fast forward to Paris, now they're at the Chanel show. KARL CAMEO ALERT HERE. "I know for a fact that Anna Wintour uses Snapchat," Macer says.

9:20 p.m.: October 17 - Shulman has been in charge of British Vogue for 25 years. Monthly sales of the mag are 200,000+. "It's a kind of a reaction to the social media that's going on. And that people are so used to having access to everybody's lives," Shulman says. "Do perhaps people like the idea of a magazine cover reflecting that?" Existential media question these days. "How do you keep that element of iconic fashion model idea of Vogue but also make it part of the very kind of democratic conversation that's going on at the moment. I think that's probably the biggest task that I've got."

9:22 p.m.: Macer talks about Edie Campbell, Kate, and Rihanna on March, April, and May covers. Snap to Chambers talking about Skyping for the first time. She saw her first-ever Instagram the night before. She loved it. They're talking about the March issue.

9:23 p.m.: Now we're doing the runthrough with Shulman. They're showing her Gucci. "Will that look like an old lady with knickers," she asks. She's concerned.

9:24 p.m.: Macer is talking to the booking director. They're looking at walls full of comp cards, which are divided between "new faces" and "classics."

9:25 p.m.: Classical music / opera interlude. Now we're at the March cover shoot with Edie Campbell, photographer is Mario Testino, you just know by his voice even before he shows up on screen #legend. "You have such a range," Chambers says, "And that's what I want to see in this shoot." They're, like, in a corridor or something. Unclear where they're shooting, but it's a very small space, looks like a location, not studio shoot. "He is shooting in a dingy passageway, no bigger than a cupboard," Macer says. Testino is the godfather to one of Chambers' children. Chambers talks about how she and Testino both lived in squats when they were young and Testino gave the best parties.

9:27 p.m.: Testino talked about how they first met—he saw a "freaky" looking girl walking down the street and he said he had to talk to her. He used to stop by and eat lunch with Chambers everyday at Vogue when they were both starting out.

9:29 p.m.: Now we're walking down the hall with Jaime Perlman. She's talking about how trying to make something feel new all the time is "kind of exhausting." "It's a lot of pressure and it's a lot," she says. Shulman comes looking for her and Perlman shows her cover options—one where Campbell is in repose and one where she's taking a more aggressive stance on a white background. They're very different covers. The two discuss emotional vs. commercial preferences for covers. "My heart is never allowed to rule," Shulman says.

9:31 p.m.: Macer says Shulman is "difficult to read at times." He reveals that he filmed things he found on staffers' desks. He goes to visit Shulman's mother, who used to work for Vogue, and now lives in Belgravia. She shows him a photo of herself at the top of the Empire State Building. She married a Canadian, she says. "He was very, very proud of her," she says of Shulman's father. "Every time I see a copy of Vogue, I think 'Well done, Alexandra.'"

9:33 p.m.: Back to the Vogue offices, eavesdropping on the beauty girls talking about a face mask you just add water to. Macer is VO-ing about a beauty editor who went to Cambridge University. "I hope you don't portray us as people who are just interested in blusher," she told him.

9:36 p.m.: Shulman says she likes to employ clever women who challenge her. One-on-one now with Shulman talking about group dynamics. "I never feel lonely, ever, here. I've got enough people around me that I just don't ever feel lonely," she says.

9:37 p.m.: Now we're in a country house somewhere, at the April cover shoot with KATE MOSS omg. Shulman VO about how Kate Moss might behave at the shoot. "Some of the covers, she's been almost a symbol... there aren't that many people that have that symbolic power, I think," Shulman says.

9:39 p.m.: Showing the props at the shoot. Inspired by the Stones living in tax exile. The shoot frenzy unfolds. Kate looks magnificent (obv). It's magic watching her work. She has these huge clips all up and down the back of her white jumpsuit, which Mick Jagger once wore. It's frantic, everyone is running from one place to another, trying to catch the light.

9:41 p.m.: Now they're talking. Kate Moss says: "36 covers, more than anyone else, apparently, that's what they say." He asks her what British Vogue has done for her career. She says: "They've been such a huge support to me," then she says, "I hate being interviewed," and runs away.

9:42 p.m.: Macer VO-ing in an empty room talking about how he doesn't know what to do now. "I always thought the currency of the fashion world is in the new, but Kate Moss' enduring success seems to be built on extolling the virtues of the familiar." Then they kicked him off the shoot.

9:43 p.m.: Back in the British Vogue office looking at Kate Moss cover options. Shulman doesn't like the big flag cape one that Perlman likes. "There's a lot of pressure to sell magazines right now," Perlman says. Macer asks if she would ever challenge Shulman. "I'm totally happy to voice my opinion with Alex," Perlman says. "Ultimately, what she says goes. And sometimes I think if you push her too much, she gets annoyed."

9:44 p.m.: Now we're in a staff meeting in Shulman's office looking at cover options. "It doesn't read," Shulman says about the cape flag option. Everyone else likes the cape flag cover. They go with a closer-up image. They're working on cover lines. "Rolling Stones Gather Moss" comes up—#genius.

9:46 p.m.: "I think it's less indulgent [now]," Chambers says. "It was a sort of much more heightened place. People weren't beavering away, just getting on with it, behaving well. People behaved badly. There'd be lots more hangover, lots more parties. There's no room for people to have hissy fits. And I think Alex runs a really tight ship in that respect."

9:50 p.m.: They're looking at market research data on the two cover options. They walk into the corporate meeting where Shulman is presenting to Nicholas Coleridge, president of Conde Nast International. All the executive corporate team vote for the close-up cover image. They say that Union Jack covers perform terribly across the board. Perlman is still arguing her point, asks the team to consider a double/subscriber cover. "No, I won't do it. I just don't like that picture," Shulman says.

9:54 p.m.: They walk back into the to open office space and present the cover decision. Everyone boos. Fade to black. Now we're back, there are party invites going out to celebrities c/o their management offices. Macer VOs an overview of the year, gala dinner, museum exhibition, parties. Shulman says that the "March cover sold brilliantly, 20-odd percent up year-on-year." Kate Moss gets bumped from the March cover for Rihanna.

9:56 p.m.: "I think generally she's really well behaved, she doesn't behave badly. So I'm pleased when she gets to behave badly. I'm pleased when that side of her comes out," Chambers says about Shulman. Perlman talks to Macer about how the Kate Moss cover was stopped while in the printing process and what it means—all the redesign that had to happen within 24 hours. Shulman explains that she heard another magazine (American Vogue) has done a Rihanna cover, so she didn't want to follow. "I don't think it would have bene helpful to have two covers on the newsstand at the same time, of the same person, within the same month," Shulman says.

9:59 p.m.: Macer talks to Perlman about interviewing Anna Wintour and how he wants to bring up the Rihanna cover. Perlman asks Macer to please not say anything. Cut to Anna Wintour in a hotel room.

Fade to black.

OK, now I'm going to go watch Celebs Go Dating, my favorite new show. Bye.