In the 2009 documentary The September Issue, there are two scenes in which Grace Coddington, then Creative Director of US Vogue magazine, gives us a rare insight into how she views the world. In the first, she is en route in Paris. She speaks about working with the photographer Norman Parkinson early in her career as a fashion editor.
“He taught me to always keep your eyes open, you know, never go to sleep in the car or anything like that. Keep watching because whatever you see out the window or wherever, it can inspire you.”
The scene then changes to Grace on location at Versailles. As she looks out over the landscaped gardens she says that she is still a romantic and that perhaps she has been left behind.
When I first saw these two scenes together in the context of the entire documentary, I recognised the characteristics of the creative introvert – the passionate attention to detail, the preference to work alone or with only a few people, and the need for quiet concentration and contemplation. A few years later I was gifted a copy of her memoir and it completely cemented my initial impression.
I’ve since come to regard Grace Coddington as the quintessential creative introvert and a personal benchmark when it comes to achieving great things with integrity and, no pun intended, grace. I also love her sense of humour…be sure to visit Grace’s website and see what I mean for yourself.
So, if you’ve read this far, I will assume you want to read more, so I will, of course, indulge you. Here are some of my favourite quotes from Grace’s memoir:
When the September Issue was in production, Grace was placed in the spotlight, and she wasn’t happy about it. In her memoir, she wrote of having cameras intrude on her day-to-day work at Vogue.
“Perfectly nice they were, but I told them I wasn’t interested and I didn’t want them anywhere near me because it was too distracting. I hate having people observing me; I want to swat them away like a swarm of flies. My office door remained firmly closed.”
On attending the collections:
“Sometimes I think I’m the last remaining person who goes to the shows for the pleasure of seeing the clothes, rather than desperately wanting to be there for the social side – which is the part I always had to be dragged to, kicking and screaming.”
“I used to see every show in the New York collections, but these days I’m much more selective, partly because the experience has become so trying… As you dodge the movie cameras on your way in, there is usually some starlet of the moment surrounded by photographers and planted in the middle of the runway, hindering everyone else from getting to their seats. I can’t stand it, so I usually put the blinkers on and rush straight through.”
On her legacy:
“For me, one of the most important aspects of my life work is to give people something to dream about, just as I used to dream all those years ago as a child looking at beautiful photographs. I still weave dreams, finding inspiration wherever I can and looking for romance in the real, not the digital, world.”
One last thing, if you’re not familiar with Grace’s incredible body of work, Google Grace Coddington Vogue editorials and breathe it all in.
You can also buy Phaidon’s incredible book Grace: Thirty Years of Fashion at Vogue here.