Grace Coddington’s wild red hair and unbridled creativity stole the show in the movie The September Issue. The documentary had planned to focus on Vogue USA Editor Anna Wintour (dubbed the real life Devil Wears Prada), however Grace was the one who captivated the critics.
To give you a quick snap-shot of Coddington, her Vogue Online profile begins with “If Wintour is the Pope . . . , Coddington is Michelangelo, trying to paint a fresh version of the Sistine Chapel twelve times a year.”
Coddington grew up on the island of Angelsey off Wales where her family ran a hotel. She helped out with the hotel – making the beds and helping to serve at the bar. Her schooling was at a Catholic monastery however she was more often found studying a Vogue magazine than her schoolbooks. Her childhood was peaceful and allowed her to develop her creative and reflective skills which would later inspire her work as a fashion stylist. She said of her childhood, “I used to sit on the rocks and look out to the sea and be on my own and just dream.”
Coddington developed a love for fashion but was frustrated when her Vogue magazine frequently arrived three months late, despite her paying for express delivery to the island. Her passion for fashion was directed toward the creation of stylish swimwear with her Singer sewing machine, but this was not enough to satisfy her dreams. At the age of 18 she moved to London and attended the Cherry Marshall modeling school. The school was not very supportive of Grace claiming she did not have the obligatory blonde hair although she was very pretty.
Not deterred, Coddington entered her photos in a British Vogue competition and won in the Young Ideas category. Winning the competition allowed her to move to full-time modeling, often featuring in the Young Ideas section of Vogue. A year later she was appointed house model for Vidal Sassoon and featured in many fashion spreads including a cover of Vogue UK. Tragically, her career ended when she was involved in a serious car accident where her face was smashed in the driving mirror losing an eyelid.
Grace gained an interview with British Vogue Editor Beatrix Miller, who was so impressed she hired her as Junior Editor. Miller has said of Grace that she could capture the atmosphere around her so easily. He stated, “If she went to China, she would become Chinese.” She spent 19 years at British Vogue, mostly as the magazine’s Senior Photo Editor and resigned soon after Miller retired.
Her next position was as Design Director for Calvin Klein, which was a significant step as it brought her into the heart of American design. Only a year later, Coddington moved to New York to work with Anna Wintour at Vogue. At 71 years of age, she is still Vogue magazine’s Creative Director.
Her life working with Wintour is accurately illustrated in The September Issue. Coddington becomes the only member who dares to defy Anna Wintour’s decisions. However in the end Wintour approves most of Coddington’s ideas and the 2007 September issue of Vogue features fashion spreads, mostly created by Coddington. The movie also provides a glimpse into the creative world of a stylist and the talent required to produce images of passion and beauty.
Coddington published a biography in 2012 called Grace: A Memoir. The book shares the steps and concept that goes into producing a fashion image. There are many amusing tales, hand-drawings and a glimpse inside the upper echelons of the fashion world.
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