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Grace Coddington – Memoirs & insider stories

January 27, 2016

I picked up a copy of Grace, Grace Coddington’s memoirs after seeing her starring “role” in The September Issue, the 2009 documentary about American Vogue.


And who knew that Grace Coddington, the former model, current Vogue stylist had such a massive hand in fashion, both here and across the Atlantic? She’s been styling iconic shoots for decades, and was even design director (head designer to you and me) at both Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren in the 1990s.


Grace Coddington has tonnes of insider fashion stories, so it’s a shame that they’re not as engaging as they could be. I imagine she’s lots of fun if you give her a big glass of wine and got her going on the anecdotes in person, but in the book it’s somehow rather careful and flat – I suspect a ghostwriter is prompting her and then dutifully going back and researching the gaps.

Fashion insider

All of this makes it a bit of a book for a fashion devotee – you’d have to recognise the names of the slew of photographers, designers and models frequently name checked and mentally put a design style, photographic style or face to all these names not to get muddled up or bored. (Although I knew of most of them, I did at one point find myself reading the same page three times before giving up for a break – and you shouldn’t need a break from the ideal book, you just want to gallop on with the best ones). It’s worth knowing in advance that there’s a section of images of shoots that Grace Coddington styled at the back – I wish I had known this as I was reading about them!

Grace Coddington and Karl Lagerfeld

But it’s fun to know that when she first met fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld he had a monocle and a large, bushy black beard which he scented with the last drops of a romantic scent which he’d bought up in bulk, it being discontinued. It’s fun to imagine the rather desiccated Karl that we see today being a bit of a buccaneer. And it’s a shock when she refers to the cuddly teddy of a photographer, Bruce Weber, as “a young photographer” – thankfully it seems that young Bruce Weber was exactly the same as current Bruce Weber, in biker headscarf and beard.

The opposite of a diva

Grace Coddington is humble about her career, her achievements and her mistakes. She twice says she left important jobs to avoid arguments with friends or people she respects whom she has differing opinions with, not wanting to ruin the friendship. This is gracious, but based on her clashes with Anna Wintour documented in The September Issue, one wonders if her departures were quite so calm as she describes them. But I think it’s extremely un-diva-esque of her to describes her mistakes while at Calvin Klein – she produced a collection that didn’t fit in at all with the ethos of the streamlined sportswear company, all pretty prints and straw boaters. The press hauled her over the coals, and Klein himself (who had been in rehab at the time) was furious. Grace left soon after and reflects that the episode could have ended up costing the fashion house real money.


The book is illustrated throughout with Grace Coddington’s own drawings, and plenty of photos of her at different times in her life. It’s a book worth getting for fashion connoisseurs.


Grace on the cover of British Vogue in the 60s. Image via Vogue.

Grace on the cover of iD recently. Image courtesy iD.

One of Grace’s romantic stories. Image via Vogue.

Another beautiful spread from Grace.