Grace Coddington has been the Creative Director of American Vogue magazine since 1988. But until 2009, she was barely known outside the industry, overshadowed by her petite, yet larger than life editor, Anna Wintour. Then came the movie,The September Issue in 2009, with its intimate look into the creation of that mammoth volume. Suddenly Grace was being recognized all over the world. Possibly more than she had been when she was one of the top models of the 60’s.
As a result of being thrust back in the limelight, she was persuaded to tell the story of her quite fascinating life, flashing forward and back, from her childhood in Wales to her years as a model to various marriages, accidents, boyfriends, and cats.
You discover that, despite the fabulous clothes and opportunities for travel, modeling was a much less glamorous profession back in her day. There were no stylists. Each model was responsible for doing her own hair and makeup and toting everything she needed for those endeavors from job to job. Nonetheless, she had the opportunity to work with some of the world’s best photographers, including David Bailey, Bruce Weber and Helmut Newton.
Even if they did nickname her “The Cod.”
She makes liberal use of her archive of photos from both her modeling career and her time as creative director. Known for always having her sketchbook handy at runway shows, she also illustrates the chapters with her own drawings, which add a considerable amount of charm to the volume. In fact, if you prefer to read your books electronically, be advised that it is only available on devices with larger screens – i.e., your Kindle, yes. Your smart phone, no.
Those of you who pick up this book hoping to read more dirt along the lines of The Devil Wears Prada will be sadly disappointed. Grace obviously respects Anna enormously, and was highly offended by the way she was portrayed in the movie. More telling is this, “I don’t remember the girl at all. Anna has quite a large turnover of assistants who sit in the office outside hers. They don’t mingle and are usually just a voice on the phone…”
Which isn’t to say that she doesn’t dish on the behind-the-scenes power plays that were a staple of life atVogue. “Despite outsiders’ elevated view of Vogue as a temple of cool and sophistication, a girls’ boarding school – with its sulky outbursts, tears, and schoolgirlish tantrums – was exactly what it occasionally resembled.”
Grace Coddington has not only delivered an enjoyable tale of life in the fashion industry, she’s utilized her Creative Director’s eye to make the book a joy to delve into. Publishers should take note: the appeal of a physical book isn’t dead yet.