Latest Stories

Grace Coddington’s memoir is a different tell-all


When Grace Coddington’s much-awaited memoir came out, some critics panned it, disappointed with what they perceived to be a glossed-over version of events in her life—that and the fact that there wasn’t dirt or juicy tidbits about American Vogue’s (in)famous Anna Wintour.

What you will get from the chapters that outline Coddington’s life, though, is how her tenure in the fashion industry, coupled with her experience, has turned her into a fashion historian who’s lived through fashion’s greatest and worst,  and continues to do so as American Vogue’s creative director.

At 71 years old, she proves that fashion is not a young person’s exclusive domain.

“Grace: A Memoir” is a series of anachronistic anecdotes about growing up in a small island in Wales, moving to London to become a model, and later working behind the scenes as a stylist and editor of British and American Vogue.

Her brief modeling stint shows the marked difference between the era of the supermodel and the one before it.

As  model, Coddington was only as good as her bag of tricks: Each model then had to know how to do her own hair and makeup, and to have a well-stocked bag of accessories and sometimes outfits—a far cry from today’s model.

Even the cachet of being an editor in British Vogue didn’t necessarily translate to posh vacations masquerading as photo shoots—Grace would usually do all the legwork herself, dealing with temperamental photographers, models and designers (most of whom became her very good friends), carting heavy couture outfits and dressing the model herself. The locale may have been exotic, but it was evidently hard work.

In fashion shows, she would have to sketch each outfit to remember each one, a practice she still does despite the ubiquity of camera phones. Her fondness for sketching is seen throughout the book; her words are interspersed with pen-and-ink illustrations of herself, of designers and her beloved cats.

The book is also a testament to her professed shyness, because while it was supposed to be her memoir, the major events in her life would be mentioned but rarely dwelled upon—a miscarriage caused by a riot (her first and last time to conceive), inappropriate sexual advances by the notorious Roman Polanski, an almost-affair with Mick Jagger, failed marriages—these events would merit a few sentences, while her most memorable shoots would occupy paragraphs.

One such shoot was her “Alice in Wonderland” theme shoot by photographer Annie Leibovitz, where she cast designers as characters of the book—Jean Paul Gaultier as the Cheshire Cat; Viktor and Rolf as Tweedledum and Tweedledee; and Tom Ford as the White Rabbit. It was a big production that resulted in hilarious hijinks (Leibovitz and Karl Lagerfeld weren’t getting along and ruffled feathers needed soothing).

Of course, Wintour figures significantly in Coddington’s memoirs. Though the two were seen butting heads in “The September Issue” (a documentary about Vogue’s thickest issue that propelled the exposure-reluctant Coddington to the spotlight), it is also evident that the two enjoy a relationship built on mutual respect and professionalism. Coddington staunchly defends Wintour while denouncing “The Devil Wears Prada” (“How disgracefully disloyal,” she writes) and the image it has cultivated of Anna Wintour and Vogue.

It would be Wintour who would organize a huge party for Coddington’s birthday, and Wintour told her that as long as she was there Grace would remain as well.

Even if you are not a huge fan of fashion, this is an entertaining read about life behind the scenes of one of fashion’s grand institutions, a first-hand account of someone who’s quite literally seen it all in the whirlwind world of fashion.

It is an inspiring read for anyone who’s ever wanted to work in the fashion industry and a great nostalgic trip for those who have been immersed in fashion the same time as Grace Coddington.

“Grace: A Memoir” is available at National Book Store.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: American Vogue , Anna Wintour , Grace Coddington , memoir , Vogue

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Noli Yamsuan, Cardinal Sin’s ‘official’ photographer: ‘I could smell the aftershave lotion of the Pope’
  3. Palawan favorite getaway of show biz celebrities
  4. Fashionistas flock to designer’s wedding
  5. Joe de Venecia visits the Queen Mother of Cambodia
  6. President Quezon was born here–and so was Philippine surfing
  7. A tale of two Priscillas: my mother Prissy and Chona Recto Kasten
  8. This is not just a farm
  9. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  10. Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  4. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  5. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  6. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  7. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  8. This is not just a farm
  9. 12 other things you can do at Pico de Loro Cove
  10. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  4. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  5. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  6. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  7. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  8. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  9. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  10. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?


  • Obama, family cause a small stir at Easter service
  • Estrada: Gigi Reyes won’t testify vs JPE
  • Ancient enigmatic carvings in danger of disappearing
  • Tagle: Hope comes with warning on Easter
  • New plant to boost supply of clean energy
  • Sports

  • Goodbye MGM, Las Vegas for Pacquiao?
  • Rain or Shine drops Ginebra in big hole
  • Ateneo whips CSB; Davao debuts with win over FEU
  • PH pug Hipolito Banal decisions Colombian in Aiba
  • Former Pacquiao sparmate Porter keeps IBF title
  • Lifestyle

  • Transitions and resurrection in the performing arts
  • ‘Archaeology tour’ of Cebu’s heritage of faith
  • Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  • ‘Imports’ from London, and play of the year
  • Korean animation comes of age
  • Entertainment

  • Easter musings
  • Solenn in shorts
  • Unmerry mix of attention-calling moves on ‘Mini-Me’ TV tilts
  • Persistence pays off for The 1975
  • Special section in LA fest for Filipino films
  • Business

  • BDO seen keen on bidding for Cocobank
  • Bataan freeport investment pledges up 1,302%
  • Golden Week
  • Bourse to woo Cebu stock mart investors
  • Supper power
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Gigi’s home
  • Palace stonewalls on MRT inquiry
  • Couple of things too
  • There is plenty of water behind Wawa Dam
  • Triduum thoughts of a young boy
  • Global Nation

  • Search for Etihad passengers launched
  • Japan presents $57-B ‘dream plan’ to solve Metro congestion
  • Tim Tebow’s charity hospital in Davao seen to open in 7 months
  • OFW died of Mers-CoV in Saudi Arabia, says family
  • Aquino, Obama to tackle US pivot to Asia during state visit