Vogue’s Grace Coddington on Avant-Garde Fashion: ‘You Have to Have a Bit of Fun in Life’

When Vogue creative director Grace Coddington first watched the 2009 documentary The September Issue, she was in total shock. “There was way too much of me in the film,” explains Coddington in her memoir, Grace, out today from Random House. “Now I can look at the end result and laugh. After all, I was rather outspoken. Nevertheless, there really is way too much of me.” In doing press for the film, she not only became much more recognizable, to the point that fans gathered in front of her Chelsea apartment building (“I felt like the Beatles,” she writes. “Actually, better than the Beatles, because the crowds chasing them in the early days of their fame could get rough.”), but also found herself looking back over an extraordinary life and career. “It got me thinking…that maybe I had a bigger story to share.”

That story, told over some 400 pages and annotated with Coddington’s charming pen-and-ink illustrations, now pushes the reluctant celebrity back into the spotlight. Among the first stops on her press tour was NPR, where she chatted yesterday with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross about her early life in Wales, career as a model (interrupted by a car accident), and all things Vogue. Alas, the interview (click below to listen to the full segment) inevitably devolved to Gross asking a variant of the “But who really wears that stuff?” question. Coddington’s response:

You know, you have to have a bit of fun in life, and that’s why they [designers] do it, and they do it to get your attention. They do the extreme ones. When you go back to their showrooms, you’ll find the more commercial versions of that, but it’s to get across a point. You have to say it in a strong way to get across a point. So if you want to go short, they go very, very, very short on the runway. But you’ll find in the showroom, it’ll be a reasonable short, you know, that you can wear. So there’s always the commercial version. And equally, we photograph both. We photograph the more commercial things, and we photograph the extreme things because–for the same reason. In order to make the point, you have to say it strongly, so people can see the difference between this season and the last season, and, you have to feed them the information. If you’re too subtle about it, you’re not going to get it.

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