Amazing Grace

So on Monday night night I finally got to see The September Issue!  It was great, very very interesting and by the end of it I was wanting to see more.  More of Grace Coddington, the supremely talented misstress of styling and VOGUE’s Creative Director.  Don’t get me wrong, Anna Wintour is the queen of decision making, she never hesitates.  But is it always the right one?  Most of the time it probably is, but when you see the work (and the money) and the HEART that Grace puts into her stories only to have them treated second-rate or to have important parts of her story canned because they don’t fulfil Anna’s vision is both heartbreaking and infuriating.

I wanted to see more, much more of lovely Grace and her sublime creations.  A truly innate talent that somehow she is able to transfer from her mind to reality with the help of gorgeous models and gifted photographers.

Grace began her work in fashion on the other side of the camera as a model in the late 50s.

Grace has worked as a stylist for more than 30 years and if you think back to any editorial of the past that may have stuck in your memory – chances are it was Grace’s work.

So you might be wondering, what exactly does a fashion editor do?

“Of course, choosing the clothes to shoot is part of it, but it’s also much more than that… it’s playing with everyone’s personalities and making sure that everything is jelling.  When I’m on top of a mountain with a photographer who doesn’t want to shoot something because it doesn’t look sexy, and the magazine wants it in the issue – at that point, I’m the one who has to keep everyone motivated.”  – Grace Coddington

Following is some of Grace’s sublime work for VOGUE over the years and an interview with Jay Fielden of VOGUE regarding her “role” in The September Issue.

You were reluctant to be in The September Issue.But you eventually decided to do it. Why?
I really wasn’t given an option, and I guess R.J.[Cutler, the director] noticed I was the only one who argued. I was even a bit spiky with them. And they wanted that dynamic. I still didn’t want to do it. It’s not what I do, but I gave in. These things do come back to haunt you.
What was your reaction the first time you saw the movie?
Shock! Shock that I was in it as much as I was. I thought I would end up on the cutting-room floor. . . . It has happened before.

Does the movie accurately portray life at Vogue?
It portrays a small part, I think. It showed the racks whizzing by. And it showed us all sneaking into the art department when no one is looking to see what pictures made it up on the board and how they’re jumping around. Everyone does that, though maybe I’m a bit more like a dog with a bone.
I think work is actually busier than it appears in the movie, more frantic. At the time we were shooting the September issue, we were doing shoots for Teen Vogue and Fashion Rocks out of the same office space. There were so many racks in the hall at one point I went on strike. They filmed that, but it didn’t make the cut.
I don’t think you’re made aware of quite how many fashion editors are working here, either. Phyllis [Posnick, Executive Fashion Editor], who you see in maybe one scene, has a very major role in the magazine, but she mostly works with Penn, who doesn’t allow cameras in the studio. Her contribution might be just one page in an issue, but it’s huge in making Vogue Vogue. And besides the Neiman’s breakfast and the Fashion Fund, you’re not given a sense of just how many huge extracurricular projects Anna’s always involved in, such as Fashion’s Night Out.

Of the photo shoots you did in the September 2007 issue, which is your favorite?
The one I make such a fuss about in the movie—the twenties story I did withMeisel, who also won’t allow cameras on his set. He was allowed not to allow it.
The New York Times characterized your most important relationship here as one like that between Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. . . .
What I want to know is which one’s me. Anna’s the leader like Mick. I guess I’m Keith because I’m wrinkled. Seriously, though, a lot of people say Anna’s the business one and I’m the creative one. It’s not true. She’s the creative one. So many of the shoots I do start with her ideas. She was the creative director ofVogue before I was, after all. I also believe that everyone needs an editor. What she does is edit and make my work stronger.
What is your favorite moment in the movie?
I like the part when I’m walking past the feathers and spitting them out. And I loved the bit about Andrè’s diamond tennis watch, I also like the cameos at the end—I hope people stay to watch that part, which comes after the credits have rolled by.
But my very favorite scene is when Raquel [Zimmermann, the model] was eating pies at the couture. She kept looking at them and saying she wanted one, while we were lacing her into this tiny corset and reminding her she wouldn’t fit if she ate one. So she didn’t eat them. . . . and she didn’t eat them. Then when the shoot was over she ate, like, a whole pie! It’s a funny scene, and she looks absolutely beautiful.
What do people who have seen the movie say to you?
Well, I wish people would stop saying to me, “You were great in the movie”—as if I were acting! I wasn’t acting!

What’s it like watching yourself on-screen?
I’d much rather see myself in a still photograph than a moving one, because a still is more controlled and they can get rid of the double chins. I really thought I looked younger than that.
What was going through your mind in the infamous silent-elevator scene?
“Oh, God, I hope it’s not too many floors up.”
What if the movie makes you famous beyond the fashion world?
I’m in denial about that. I don’t think it will happen. If it does, I’ll allow my hair to go naturally gray, and then no one will recognize me.
What’s the secret of surviving for 27 years in fashion?
Twenty-seven! Are you kidding? Do I look that young? Try 50!
There is no secret—just by absolutely loving what you do. Maybe it looks easy in the film to get great pictures. But there’s a lot more lead up, which you wouldn’t want to film because it’s boring. There’s all the wheeling and dealing to get the people to do the picture. There’s making sure you get the best clothes first, getting the right photographer and model, hair and makeup. The precise team is all-important. I do not accept second best. That’s my strength and my downfall, at the same time. Because I’m so stubborn I often do end up getting what I want. Even at school. On my reports it used to say, “Grace has a sweet way of getting her will.” I mean, I AM aware that sometimes I can be very annoying.
So if you haven’t seen The September Issue yet, it is well worth it, for it’s not so much about the fashion, but the working relationship between a pair of alpha females that know their stuff and work day and night to achieve the ultimate in fashion publishing, month after month after month.

Ciao for now,


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