Grace Coddington on Why She Once Quit While Working Under Anna Wintour
The skeleton detailsof Grace Coddington's CV are pretty well-established at this point: a long and lustrous tenure as Vogue creative director was achieved after a terrible car accident turned her modeling career into that of a stylist and fashion editor. But a profile of Coddington in The Economist's quarterly supplement More Intelligent Life— by one of Coddington's former assistants — gives us a few less-reported details.
Coddington says of her mentor, the photographer Norman Parkinson, in the '70s:
“He taught me the art of travelling, which means never closing your eyes in case you miss something. We’d get up at five and drive round on recces to see what inspired us. The approach is so different now. Photographers don’t look out the window: they want to see a location book, and everything is done on computers.”
She turns 70 in April, and admits that she, too, has changed her approach:
“I got really sick last time in Paris [during Fashion Week], and I was on antibiotics for two months. I push my body too hard, and do have to stop myself now from jumping on a plane. It used to be me who got sent to Russia and China while the older editors stayed behind, but I’m one of those older ones now.”
A few more things we learned:
She's lived with Didier Malige since the '80s, but she's also been married twice: The first time was in 1969 to Michael Chow, the owner of the Mr Chow restaurant chain. It lasted six months ("I was useless at being a restaurateur’s wife — much too shy to table-hop," Coddington says). And the second time was in 1976 to a "rangy, rock'n'roll" photographer, Willie Christie, who she mentored at British Vogue. They divorced in 1980 because, Coddington says, “It’s difficult to be employed by your wife.” In between the two marriages she dated Duc, a young, Paris-based Vietnamese photographer, with whom she was in love before, during, and after her first marriage.
Coddington — known for her long, red hair — was once a blonde: In 1980, after her second divorce, Coddington turned herself into "a business-suited, short-haired blonde — what she calls a 'Calvin person.'"
She once quit while working for Anna Wintour: Coddington had been at British Vogue since 1968, but after Anna Wintour joined as editor-in-chief in March 1986, Coddington resigned in December of that year: “Anna was much more into ‘sexy’ than I was.” She rejoined Wintour at Vogue two years later because she missed working at magazines (she had been working as Calvin Klein design director in the interim: "Excitement on 7th Avenue ends with the show. The next day it’s all marketing.”).