Vogue Festival 2016: Grace Coddington discusses career in fashion
Vogue Festival has returned for its fifth year and, typically, there will be two days of fashion, debate, workshops and luxury. This year, the event is themed around Vogue’s 100th anniversary, with visitors able to access a special Vogue World venue on the East Albert Lawn in Kensington Gardens.
For the first talk of the weekend, Grace Coddington, creative director-at-large of American Vogue, was interviewed by British Vogue’s Lucinda Chambers on her life and work in fashion.
Coddington came into the public eye in 2009 with the release of The September Issue, in which she was seen heavily involved in the styling and production of Vogue, under the watchful eye of Anna Wintour – with whom she has worked since 1988. However, Coddington’s career in fashion began when she was just 17, after winning a Vogue Young Model competition.
Unfortunately, her modelling career took a sudden two-year hiatus following a car accident, which left her with serious head injuries and a damaged eye.
In her late twenties, Coddington joined British Vogue as junior fashion editor, and was assisted by Lucinda Chambers – it was fascinating to see the pair discuss their experience together, whilst recognising the highs and lows of a career in fashion.
Coddington has a traditional approach to her work. She attends international fashion weeks and sketches from the front row, while those around her take photographs on their iPhones. “I must be the last remaining person sketching at a show. I’m not very fast at making my mind up and so that’s why I draw everything,” she said.
What sets her apart is her determination to create imagery that conveys a narrative beyond the clothing – whether it be jolly and decadent or moody and mysterious. “I don’t mess around with the clothes. I’m very fussy with what I photograph and so I think if it’s good enough to be in Vogue, then I don’t mess with them. A good shoot starts with the clothes; that’s why I go to all of the collections”.
She continued, “Everything you see is a reference – a book on Matisse, someone on the subway, it’s when you mix them together that you make it yours.”
Remarkably, Coddington was the first person to put a model without make-up on the cover of Vogue in the late 1970s. Hundreds of letters were subsequently sent to the publication from outraged readers. Perhaps this was a reflection of her personal ethos – she insists she is not fond of luxury, always dresses comfortably and never wears mascara.
Coddington has worked with a wealth of renowned photographers, including David Bailey, Tim Walker, Bruce Weber, Patrick Demarchelier and Annie Leibovitz. She explained, “When it’s right, it’s right. When it’s wrong, it’s wrong. I’m picky and I don’t like compromising. I feel when a photograph is right. You don’t have to always like the photographer, but you do have to admire them. You have to go beyond the person. It’s a language, you have to understand them and they have to understand you.”
Without doubt, Coddington is at the top of her game. As Lucinda Chambers quite rightly said, “I don’t think she is afraid of anything – and the same can’t be said of many fashion editors and stylists today.”
For further information on Vogue Festival visit here.