Look Inside. Nov 20, Minutes Buy. With the witty, forthright voice that has endeared her to her colleagues and peers for more than forty years, Grace now creatively directs the reader through the storied narrative of her life so far. Evoking the time when models had to tote their own bags and props to shoots, Grace describes her early career as a model, working with such world-class photographers as David Bailey and Norman Parkinson, before she stepped behind the camera to become a fashion editor at British Vogue in the late s.
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I n , a documentary team began filming The September Issue , a behind-the-scenes look at American Vogue as staff put together the magazine's fattest number of the year under the direction of Anna Wintour, its somewhat scary editor. Thanks to The Devil Wears Prada , a novel in which a woman not unlike Wintour is portrayed as a demanding monster by a former assistant, Wintour's fame preceded her; the film-makers must have thought she would be their star.
In the end, though, this is not what happened. When the film was released in , it was clear that the camera had loved a different creature, a pale and tetchy redhead called Grace Coddington, who is Vogue 's creative director. Coddington thinks there was far too much of her in the film, and she suspects her boss felt the same way. But it made her, in New York at least, quite famous, and this she likes. At her local nail salon, for instance, where the staff are Korean, they can't get enough of her.
They used to like sitting me near the window so passersby could see me. Pedestrians often came up to the glass. When they realised I couldn't hear them, they mouthed things at me like, 'I love The September Issue. I love your work. To help her out with this commission, she enlisted the help of her friend, Michael Roberts, the famously waspish style director of Vanity Fair.
But where that book was narrated by a woman long retired, and free to say whatever she liked — in DV 's opening paragraph, Vreeland merrily describes punching the agent Swifty Lazar on the nose — Coddington is at the heart of the fashion establishment, and must therefore be discreet; one gathers that even now she still dreads losing her job. Anyone hoping to find out what she really thinks about Galliano, Lagerfeld et al is, then, going to be disappointed — unless terrifying thought she really does think that everyone in fashion is clever and funny and generally adorable.
Names are dropped rather than unpacked; fashion is described not deconstructed. Coddington was born in on Anglesey, Wales, where her parents ran a hunkered, whitewashed hotel.
This is the best bit of the book, for she evokes island life quite beautifully: the cold, the longing for trees, the patterns she used to buy from Polykoff's, an old department store in Holyhead.
With nothing much else to do, she took the fantasy world of Vogue to heart, and it was from among its pages that, aged 18, she clipped a tiny paragraph advertising, for the price of 25 guineas, a two-week course at the Cherry Marshall modelling school in Mayfair.
Those who stayed had only two choices, career-wise: clock factory or snack bar. In London, she worked as a waitress at the Stockpot and waited for her ship to come in. Happily, it wasn't long. Soon after graduating from Cherry Marshall, Coddington won a Vogue modelling competition, and was suddenly in demand.
She was photographed by Norman Parkinson , had her hair cut by Vidal Sassoon , and was duly awarded a nickname: the Cod. It wasn't as pretty as Jean Shrimpton's, but somehow it stuck. It's at this point that all the heat goes out of her book. In life, I admire emotional reticence. But there's really no point in writing a memoir if you're not going to give anything away.
It's also disconcerting, to say the least, to find grave events — the car accident in which she lost the only child she was ever able to conceive; the breakdown and early death of her sister, whose son Coddington later adopted — passed over in two cool sentences, when she is willing to devote several pages to her favourite models, and a whole chapter to her cats.
Boy, is she keen on cats. Forget shoes. Forget bags. Forget sunglasses. Actually, she hates sunglasses. Grace is "cat central". I was introduced to her by Bruce Weber. In Normandy, she and a makeup artist spend an hour fruitlessly tipping buckets of dye into the sea, the better to make it blue for the photographer David LaChapelle. Worst of all, noting that Tina Chow, Michael's second wife, died of Aids in , she writes: "I had no idea up until then that it was even possible for women to contract Aids.
But I must admit that I expected better from Coddington. Topics Autobiography and memoir The Observer. Fashion industry Biography books reviews. Reuse this content. Order by newest oldest recommendations. Show 25 25 50 All. Threads collapsed expanded unthreaded. Loading comments… Trouble loading?
The Very Model of a Fashion Insider
By Gaby Wood. She comes across — in both the book and the film — as outspoken, idealistic, visionary, almost childlike. She is 71, which is the new With her pale, make-up-free skin and her geometric orange perm, she looks like a cross between a porcelain doll and a tiger, and her bleakness-to-Technicolor story offers an intriguing slant on the second half of the 20th century.
Grace: a Memoir by Grace Coddington: review
In another, Lady Docker, the richest woman in the land, would swan around Berkeley Square in her gold-plated Daimler with zebra-skin upholstery. Within barely a fortnight, I would be taught how to apply my makeup, style my own hair, and walk about elegantly in spiky stiletto shoes. We also learned how to curtsy, which was useful if you were a debutante but not exactly something needed if you were not. Finally, we learned how to walk the runway, execute a three-point turn, and properly unbutton and shrug off a coat while at the same time gliding along and smiling, smiling, smiling. This was something I was never much good at. My coordination and synchronization have always been a problem.
Grace Notes: An Excerpt from Grace Coddington's Memoir
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