To celebrate Grace Coddington’s three decades as creative director of Vogue US, Phaidon is releasing Saving Grace: My Fashion Archive 1968 – 2016, a beautifully produced box set of two books showing her seminal work with the publication. Here, in an extract from one of the books, Anna Wintour writes about her experience working with Grace.
A few years ago, when Vogue was planning a weddings issue, someone came up with the idea that Bruce Weber should photograph dogs exchanging vows. I like dogs, but not usually as fashion models, and Grace is famously a cat woman (she transports four furry friends to the Hamptons every weekend), so I viewed the whole thing with trepidation. But Grace set to work casting those dogs with the same enthusiasm and clairvoyance with which she discovered Kristen McMenamy and Stella Tennant (whom she pressured me to use when the coltish Stella didn’t even know how to walk down the runway); and in the end, she and Bruce produced a shoot in which the canine bridal party was magically chic and poignant.
It’s this ability to take the slightest seed of an idea and grow it into a fabulous narrative that has made Grace the world’s leading fashion editor. She always sees fashion in terms of stories, often of an amusingly romantic bent. Say “fashion fairy tale” to Grace and she’ll come back with Aretha Franklin as the Wicked Queen and Beverly Peele in bed with Seven Dwarfs. Say “tartan” and she’ll throw a Highland fling with a plaid-jacketed Linda Evangelista and a clan of plucky bagpipers. Little wonder all the photographers want to work with her—she inspires and challenges them like no one else.
She has inspired me for the best part of three decades. When I was a lowly fashion editor at Harpers & Queen, she was already a legend at British Vogue. Years later, when I became editor of American Vogue, the first call I received was from a mutual friend asking if Grace could ring me. I couldn’t have been more thrilled. In the years we’ve worked together, I’ve learned that Grace has the best eye in the business and can sense a trend even before the designers have an inkling of what’s going on. She’s also persistent: If Grace has an idea she will grind me down until I accept it, and she’s usually right. In a flighty business, she’s refreshingly loyal, as well: She values her close friendships above everything and is never distracted by celebrity or the trappings of fame. Grace is always true to herself and to Vogue. The result, as you will see in the following pages, is a body of work unmatched by that of any other fashion editor.
Phaidon’s Saving Grace: My Fashion Archive 1968 – 2016 is out on 28 November.