Anna Wintour presents fashion as theatre in Vogue documentary

New Vogue film takes behind-the-scenes look at the preparation of The Met Ball, fashion’s most exclusive event

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 February, 2016, 6:01pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 February, 2016, 6:00pm

Anna Wintour said, “Fashion … it’s a kind of theatre.” You betcha. Which is why the trailer for the new behind-the-scenes Vogue film The First Monday in May is tantalisingly good. The documentary follows the team at Vogue and the Metropolitan Museum of Art as they prepare for the launch party of last year’s exhibition, China: Through the Looking Glass, in New York.

The Met Ball – as it is affectionately known – is fashion’s most glamorous party, although insiders have sometimes whispered that, once inside, it’s well, um, boring. But it is, as Vogue alumnus André Leon Talley says, the “Super Bowl of social fashion events”, and the cash, the gossip and the general over-the-topness makes for compelling viewing.

Naturally, the trailer raises more questions than it answers.

Who is always on his mobile phone?

While Wintour looks at the seating plan for the dinner with a glossy-haired courtier (sorry assistant), she dryly says: “Oh, he’s coming now, is he? Well, he’d better not be on his cellphone all night.” But who is being chided rather publicly? Is it Kanye West? Is it Derek Blasberg? Or someone else?

Have we been pronouncing ‘Rihanna’ in a really unfashionable way for ages?

Because everyone at US Vogue says “Ree-Yanna”. It’s a little disconcerting. Alas, in the trailer no one discusses how to describe the singer’s omelette dress.

What sort of Chinese restaurants does Anna Wintour frequent?

In one scene, Wintour says: “It’s going to look like a Chinese restaurant.” Her tone suggests that’s a criticism. We’d be sceptical that Wintour knows anything about any eatery that doesn’t sell blooded steak if it weren’t for the fact that: a) cult label Vetements showed their catwalk collection in a Chinese restaurant recently; b) she was spotted eating fish and chips in the Refinery (a cocktail bar-cum-restaurant under an office block south of the Thames) during London Fashion Week; and c) she’s seen shifting the tables herself, which could hint at a pre-fashion life as a waitress?

Was curator Andrew Bolton the only one who considered that the exhibition theme could be interpreted as racist?

If so, why didn’t he mention it to Sarah Jessica Parker before she wore that questionable (was it appropriation or appreciation?) headpiece? Either way, the British curator is clearly one of fashion’s biggest brains. He is filmed striding the Met’s famous staircase in a tux and mankles, as the voice-over says: “I’m not afraid of controversy” and “this isn’t Disneyland”. Presumably, it was Bolton who put the kibosh on the exhibition’s original title, Chinese Whispers: Tales of the East in Art, Film and Fashion.

What exactly is the size of Rihanna’s budget?

The camera lingers on the subject bar of an email sent to Wintour, which says: “Do you have a second to talk about Rihanna’s budget?” Oh yes, we have literally hours. Tickets famously cost US$25,000 a pop, a couture dress costs up to US$70,000, hair and make-up isn’t cheap; you would need a really, really big limo to get that dress in. Assistants are on pretty much minimum wage, but Rihanna would need at least seven. Thank goodness she seems content to swig beer from a plastic cup.

The First Monday in May opens the Tribeca film festival in New York on April 13.

The Guardian