Naomi Campbell in a convertible flanked by three Dalmatians. An 18-year-old Giselle Bundchen leaning against a Vespa amongst a crowd of people. Talis Soto in a midi-length silk dress and a boxing-stance looking fearlessly past the camera.
Grace Coddington’s editorial-shoots have always been about more than clothes or fashion. They are rooted in powerful visual narratives and have made her one of the most legendary stylists of the 20th and 21st century.
Coddington has been Creative Director of ‘Vogue’ for nearly 30 years and this week she announced that she will be stepping away from this role effective immediately. In an interview with ‘Business of Fashion’ she stated that her main reason for leaving ‘Vogue’ was to branch out and explore new projects such as an upcoming collaboration with ‘Comme des Garcons.’ However, she also stated that she planned to maintain her relationship with the magazine and has already been booked for four ‘Vogue’ editorials in 2016.
Coddington began her career as a model in London’s swinging sixties. She was only seventeen when she started modelling, but having won a Vogue competition, she was featured in the magazine and quickly established herself in the London fashion scene. At the time, models would often do their own hair, makeup and styling at shoots and photographers often noticed Grace’s ability to improve a shoot by styling herself. And so, when a car accident at 26 ended her career as a model, she was immediately offered a job as a fashion editor at British Vogue.
In 1988 Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of ‘Vogue US’, recruited Coddington as Creative Director which marked the beginning of one of the most important relationships in fashion. For 30 years Wintour and Coddington worked side-by-side: Coddington is often referred to as “the Michelangelo to Anna Wintour’s Pope.” Their relationship is extensively portrayed and celebrated in the documentary “The September Issue” – a film Coddington was initially reluctant to participate in and in which she comes across as the guardian of artistry in the face of Anna Wintour’s pragmatic commercialism.
In all her editorials, Coddington strived to get the perfect shot and was known to go to extreme lengths to get it. Her commitment to the best shot has seen her climb up Greek columns just to throw smoke bombs at a model’s feet or pour litres of dye into the sea in order to get the “right shade of blue.” She also pushed the boundaries of conventional fashion journalism: in the late 1970’s she was the first to put a model wearing no makeup on the cover of ‘Vogue’ – a decision for which she received much praise and criticism. In 1976, she had Jerry Hall pose in a red swimsuit atop a Soviet monument in the USSR: the Soviet authorities tried to confiscate the film and she was forced to smuggle it out of the country.
The impact her editorials have had on fashion journalism and photography are immense and immeasurable. As R. J. Cutler, the director of ‘The September Issue’ stated: “Every billboard, every fashion magazine spread, every advertisement we see today has been influenced by Grace Coddington.”