Saturday, 21 May 2011

Grace Under Fire: Why Coddington Once Quit Under Wintour

If you weren't already 'in the know', Grace Coddington's long and successful tenure as Vogue's creative director came after a car accident abruptly ended her career as a model and saw her move into styling and becoming a fashion editor.
And now a profile of Coddington in The Economist's quarterly supplement More Intelligent Life — by one of her former assistants — reveals some lesser known details about the feisty visionary with Titian hair and hippy sandals, who stood up toAnna Wintour...and still escaped with her life.
Coddington discusses her mentor, the photographer Norman Parkinson, during the '70s, saying: “He taught me the art of travelling, which means never closing your eyes in case you miss something. We’d get up at five and drive round on recces to see what inspired us. The approach is so different now. Photographers don’t look out the window: they want to see a location book, and everything is done on computers.”
She also celebrates her 70th birthday in April this year, admitting that: “I got really sick last time in Paris [during Fashion Week], and I was on antibiotics for two months. I push my body too hard, and do have to stop myself now from jumping on a plane. It used to be me who got sent to Russia and China while the older editors stayed behind, but I’m one of those older ones now.”
She's lived with partner Didier Malige since the '80s, but has also been married twice: The first time was in 1969 to Michael Chow, the owner of the Mr Chow restaurant chain. It lasted six months ("I was useless at being a restaurateur’s wife — much too shy to table-hop," Coddington says). And the second time was in 1976 to a "rangy, rock'n'roll" photographer, Willie Christie, who she mentored at British Vogue. They divorced in 1980 because, Coddington says, “It’s difficult to be employed by your wife.” In between the two marriages she dated Duc, a young, Paris-based Vietnamese photographer, with whom she was in love before, during, and after her first marriage.
Although famed for her flaming red hair, Coddington was once a blonde bombshell: In 1980, after her second divorce, Coddington turned herself into "a business-suited, short-haired blonde — what she calls a 'Calvin person.'"
Coddington once quit while working for the Ice-Queen: Coddington had been at British Vogue since 1968, but after Anna Wintour joined as editor-in-chief in March 1986, Coddington resigned in December of that year: “Anna was much more into ‘sexy’ than I was.” She rejoined Wintour at Vogue two years later because she missed working at magazines (she had been working as Calvin Klein's design director in the interim: "Excitement on 7th Avenue ends with the show. The next day it’s all marketing.").
And if you STILL haven't seen "The September Issue" - a film which follows the making of the biggest ever edition of US Vogue - here's a clip of one of my favourite scenes, which shows Coddington close to tears after nuclear Wintour has dismissed a £35,000 twenties-themed picture spread (there are countless shots of her trundling down the Vogue corridors with her heart sinking as more and more pictures get the chop). Coddington responds with: "I care very much about what I do. It gets harder and harder to see it just get thrown out. And it's very hard to go on to the next thing.'
Unlike Wintour, who is all about NEXT!!!


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