The flame haired right-hand woman to Anna Wintour’s Vogue reign and stalwart of the fashion industry, Grace Coddington is releasing her memoirs today. From childhood photos to stylised fashion photo-shoots; Grace: A Memoir takes us through the US Vogue creative director’s iconic life and career.
Heralding from the Welsh Isles, Coddington entered the world of fashion in 1959 as a model at the tender age of 18, reaching her peak during the Swinging Sixties and going on to have one of the most lucrative careers both in front of and behind the camera. Recalling her remote origins, Coddington said: “I ordered Vogue every month from the local store. Sometimes it arrived, and sometimes it didn’t. For me, the magazine represented an amazing fantasy world of sophistication and grown-ups.” Turning her fantasy into reality, her initial break came upon winning British Vogue’s Young Model Competition, which placed her in front of eminent fashion photographer Norman Parkinson and set her on a path to life-changing success.
A devastating car accident in 1961 almost signaled the beginning of the end, were it not for Coddington’s fierce determination and self-will. Recovering following reconstructive surgery, Coddington re-launched her career and propelled herself into the sartorial spotlight alongside the likes of Twiggy, Celia Hammond and Jean Shrimpton. Shot by photographer David Bailey, dressed by designer Mary Quant and styled by hairdresser Vidal Sassoon; Coddington’s star was set alight.
In 1968 Coddington revealed yet another string to her impressive bow, stepping into the role of junior fashion editor at British Vogue under the editorial direction of Beatrix Miller. Forging relationships with prominent fashion photographers including Barry Lategan, Arthur Elgort and most significantly Norman Parkinson, she embarked on her creative journey to become one of the most innovative, imaginative and artistic figures in the industry, honing her distinct aesthetic to form the captivating narrative fashion images that have become her trademark.
Her personal life weathered various changes, though her professional vision remained as clear as ever. A brief stint as design director for Calvin Klein took her stateside in 1987 and a year later saw the acclaimed Coddington return to what she does best, this time at the helm of US Vogue. Arriving on the exact same day as Anna Wintour’s appointment to editor-in-chief, the sartorial stars aligned to form one of fashion’s most powerful partnerships in history. In 1995, Coddington became creative director of the world’s most famous style publication, a role which she continues to excel at into her seventies and one which has spawned one of the industry’s most fascinating relationships.
The push-and-pull dynamic between Wintour and Coddington revealed via the 2009 cinematic documentary The September Issue, endeared fans of the redhead who will no doubt be waiting with baited breath to turn the pages of her much-anticipated book. Delving between the covers, we are treated to the intimate moments and secret crushes that paved the way for one of fashion’s most iconic stars.
Grace: A Memoir, published by Random House, is available to buy from November 20.