“If Wintour is the Pope . . . Coddington is Michelangelo, trying to paint a fresh version of the Sistine Chapel twelve times a year.”—Time
Jan. 19, 2016 update:
Today marks the end of an era as Grace Goddington steps down as the creative director of American Vogue after 25 years at the publication.
“After more than 25 years at American Vogue, Grace Coddington will assume the role of creative director at large and take on additional projects outside the magazine,” a spokesperson for American Vogue confirmed to BoF. “She will work on several Vogue fashion shoots throughout the year.”
You have probably seen Grace Coddington’s name (and bright red hair) in photos from every fashion week, as well as in the Vogue documentary, “The September Issue”. But what does this woman, considered to be the right hand of Anna Wintour, actually do at the most iconic fashion magazine, and how did she become such an influential figure in the world of fashion?
Born Pamela Rosalind Grace Coddington in 1941 in Anglesey, Wales, she spent her childhood in the UK. Shy and introverted, she helped her parents, who ran a hotel on the island. Moving to London at 18, she worked as a waitress and attended a modeling school. “But I was never good at it,” she later remembers. The agency said she didn’t have what it takes to be a model: “You don’t have blonde hair, and you’re not very pretty.”
Later on she proved everyone wrong and won a modeling contest held by British Vogue. Coddington also became a house model for hairstylist Vidal Sassoon, who was inspired by Coddington’s “incredible bones” and “marvelous neck.”
Surviving a serious car accident in the 60s, she continued modeling until she transitioned to the other side of the business and became a fashion editor at British Vogue in 1968, after being told she was “too old to model.” Almost 20 years later, in 1986, fashion director Grace Coddington, resigned and moved to New York to become the design director for Calvin Klein.
In 1988, Coddington started her career at Vogue US (the same year as Anna Wintour did) as fashion director. The duo has been working together ever since, producing legendary fashion pages that are now considered a gold standard in the industry. Since 1995, she holds the title of Vogue’s creative director, being the visionary behind the magazine’s look and feel. In 2002, Coddington was honored with a Lifetime Achievement award from the CFDA for her inimitable talent.
In 2012 the Vogue icon published Grace: A Memoir, in which she tells stories from her work and personal life in a witty, charming manner. Brutally honest and down to earth, Grace Coddington is a rare kind for the fashion industry. She loves cats and doesn’t hide behind big fashionista sunglasses or routine plastic surgery.
Here’s a retrospective of some of our favorite (and less known) photos of the iconic Grace.
See some of Grace Coddington’s work here.