Text by Sebastian Kim
On the eve of the publication of Grace Coddington‘s memoirs the famously flame haired fashion editor is everywhere.Head to any news website worth its salt and you’ll find an excerpt from the tasteful tell-all (or just check it out on Vogue.com) detailing the backstory of some epic editorial moment straight from Vogue’s pages. Indeed it seems we’re living in a state of Grace, so to speak, so what better time to look back on the trademarks of her work – those quintessential details that set her styling apart from everyone else. It would be impossible to go through twenty years of Grace and pick a few editorials that sum up the depth and diversity that make her work great, instead we look to four Coddington calling cards that are certain to appear in every one of her stories; glamour, history, fantasy and humour.
It goes without saying that Vogue is a repository for high-glamour imagery, but Grace has always pushed the borders of what that means. It isn’t enough to showcase off the runway looks or exquisite couture, the image has to convey something powerful and iconic.
‘Talk to Her’ Photographer – Steven Meisel, Models – Joan Smalls, Coco Rocha, Karen Elson, Guinevere Van Seenus, Caroline Trentini, Liya Kebede, Abbey Lee Kershaw, Daphne Groeneveld, American Vogue 2012
Recreating the look and feel of historical periods with contemporary design has become something of a Vogue standard and when Grace takes on history the end result is always memorable. From haute baroque, to 50s style Brando-chic and 70s style glam rock, her interpretations of the past have always been fresh and dynamic.
‘A Feast for the Eyes’ Photographer –Steven Meisel, Models – Kylie Bax, Amy Wesson, Elsa Benitez, Carolyn Murphy, Naomi Campbell, Michelle Behennah, Guinevere Van Seenus, Trish Goff, Chandra North, American Vogue December 1996
‘Wild At Heart’ Photographer – Peter Lindbergh, Models – Helena Christensen, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Karen Mulder, Tatjana Patitz, and Stephanie Seymour, American Vogue 1991
Rock the House, photographer Steven Meisel, American Vogue, November 2001
No one creates a fantastical scenario via clothes quite like Grace does. Her instantly recognizable fairy tale collaboration with Annie Leibovitz has raised the bar for just about everyone by taking the familiar childhood tales and re-imagining them as fanciful fashion moments. Who says Alice can’t fall down the rabbit hole while wearing head to toe Tom Ford? Even with the elaborate sets, mythical allusions and high concept themes, Grace makes you notice the clothes first and foremost.
‘Joy to the World’ Photographer Steven Meisel, American Vogue December 2002
A concept that is regrettably missing in most fashion editorials yet always has a place in Grace’s work. Whether it is Stella Tennant leading a troop of boyscouts or Karen Elson starring as Grace herself, there is always that added touch of whimsy that makes her work a delight.