Grace: A Memoir
Beautiful. Willful. Charming. Blunt. Grace Coddington’s extraordinary talent and fierce dedication to her work as creative director of Vogue have made her an international icon. Known through much of her career only to those behind the scenes, she might have remained fashion’s best-kept secret were it not for The September Issue, the acclaimed 2009 documentary that turned publicity-averse Grace into a sudden, reluctant celebrity. Grace’s palpable engagement with her work brought a rare insight into the passion that produces many of the magazine’s most memorable shoots.
With the witty, forthright voice that has endeared her to her colleagues and peers for more than forty years, Grace now creatively directs the reader through the storied narrative of her life so far. Evoking the time when models had to tote their own bags and props to shoots, Grace describes her early career as a model, working with such world-class photographers as David Bailey and Norman Parkinson, before she stepped behind the camera to become a fashion editor at British Vogue in the late 1960s. Here she began creating the fantasy “travelogues” that would become her trademark. In 1988 she joined American Vogue, where her breathtakingly romantic and imaginative fashion features, a sampling of which appear in this book, have become instant classics.
Delightfully underscored by Grace’s pen-and-ink illustrations, Grace will introduce readers to the colorful designers, hairstylists, makeup artists, photographers, models, and celebrities with whom Grace has created her signature images. Grace reveals her private world with equal candor—the car accident that almost derailed her modeling career, her two marriages, the untimely death of her sister, Rosemary, her friendship with Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief Liz Tilberis, and her thirty-year romance with Didier Malige. Finally, Grace describes her abiding relationship with Anna Wintour, and the evolving mastery by which she has come to define the height of fashion.
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“If Wintour is the Pope . . . Coddington is Michelangelo, trying to paint a fresh version of the Sistine Chapel twelve times a year.”—Time
specialized in this sort of photography, weren’t thought of as being very “nice.” So I was naturally a bit snippy with her. After I’d been shown the ropes and allocated a half share in a cluttered desk, I was introduced to Di James, my warmhearted, highly capable assistant who has remained a lifelong friend. (Assistants are a crucial lifeline for a fashion editor, and I always become attached to mine.) I was obliged to share her with Mandy and Veronica. I was then shown the tearoom, which, of
as I arrived back overloaded to the maximum with Chinese badges, sheets, bedcovers, starched white cotton slipcovers, and antimacassars. These last were on every chair I saw in China, in every school, hotel, airport, station, and on every train seat. Maybe it’s because the men put so much grease in their hair. Now, filled with a new desire for plain, unfussy functionalism, I draped them over all the furniture in my London apartment, exchanging my chintzy covers for plain white. Throughout the
guilty, as I refuse to sail with him unless there is absolutely no wind. Then of course we become becalmed, and that drives him really crazy, since we have to use the engine to return home. As a child, Didier used to visit his mother at the veterinary clinic where she worked. There, it was his job to groom the cats and dogs. This is probably where his love of hairstyling began. The vet had some very important clients, the famous Carita sisters, who owned a hair salon in Paris. I think they
blackout curtains across our windows to avoid detection by enemy aircraft. I was about three years old when an entire troop of Americans arrived at the hotel to join the squaddies already quartered there. These GIs were barracked in temporary huts they built out front, right across the hotel grounds. They were friendly and kind to my sister and me, showering us with sweets in a time of scarcity and ration books, and helping us back onto our push bikes whenever we fell off—because we did ride
hugely collectable in the art world. Chamois Clothes, Chosen by me and shot by Arthur. It’s not mad - it’s mad max. In 2002, the same year Karl Lagerfeld published a hefty coffee table book on my work, I was nominated for the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. As was Karl. And when it came to the final round of voting, it was neck and neck between us. I found out later how close it was because Anna was on the panel for each stage of the vote. Oscar de la