At 75, the creative director of American Vogue
still has plenty of irons in the fire.
JONES: What advice would you give someone starting out on their creative journey?
GRACE CODDINGTON: Stay very focused. Nowadays, everyone is doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that and their thoughts are scattered – they do lots of things but nothing very well. I think it’s a good idea to focus on one thing and try and make it the best you can. Put all of your energy into it, but pick something that you love because if you don’t love it, no-one else will.
JONES: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your fashion career?
CODDINGTON: The health of my career has been an ongoing conversation that one sifts through and applies or doesn’t apply. I don’t remember someone sitting me down and saying, “Now... if I were you I would always do blah blah blah.” That never really happened. It’s always better if you figure it out for yourself rather than have someone tell you how to do it because then you remember it better and see why it’s a better way to go.
JONES: Which person has made the biggest impact on your career?
CODDINGTON: There isn’t a single one. There are several people who are my mentors: my first editor Beatrix Miller, my second editor Anna Wintour, and several photographers like Norman Parkinson and Bruce Weber.
JONES: What is the secret to your long-term successful working partnership with Anna Wintour?
JONES: Who’s a young stylist to watch?
CODDINGTON: A great one I’ve been working with recently on projects where I’ve been creative director. He is called Alex Harrington.
JONES: What’s your favourite expression?
CODDINGTON: I say, “You better hurry up, I might be dead.” And, “I want to speak to the photographer.” One is always being fobbed off with the agent, the studio, the something or the someone.
JONES: You wear your hair beautifully wild and don’t play up a fashionista angle. Why is that?
CODDINGTON: I feel uncomfortable when I’m not just wearing a pair of pants and a sweater or a shirt and sneakers. It’s not laziness − I just feel clean like that and it leaves my head clear to focus on work or what I have to do that day, and to focus on how to dress other people rather than myself. And my hair is the only thing that makes me look different from other people as everyone in the fashion business wears black.
JONES: What are you still curious about?
CODDINGTON: Everything. Because things change all the time. You never really find the answer.
JONES: What’s next for you?
CODDINGTON: There are two projects I’ve been working on for several years now, but doing movies is a very, very slow process. One is a film based on my memoir and the other one is an animated movie with my drawings based on a book I did called The Catwalk Cats.
JONES: Who’s your hero?
CODDINGTON: My cat.
Interview by Natalie Walton
Grace Coddington’s latest book Grace: The American Vogue Years is now available in store and online.