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BoF Exclusive | Grace Coddington to Step Down as Creative Director of American Vogue

BoF can exclusively reveal that the legendary stylist, who will assume the new role of creative director at large, is poised to take on a growing number of external projects alongside her styling duties at the magazine.
Grace Coddington | Photo: Fabien Baron/Trunk Archive
By
  • Lauren Sherman

NEW YORK, United States — A wave of change continues to reshape fashion media. BoF has learned that Grace Coddington, who has been creative director of American Vogue for nearly 30 years, is stepping away from the role, effective immediately. Yet the legendary stylist's relationship with the most powerful magazine in fashion will remain intact. "After more than 25 years at American Vogue, Grace Coddington will assume the role of creative director at large and take on additional projects outside the magazine," a spokesperson for American Vogue confirmed to BoF. "She will work on several Vogue fashion shoots throughout the year."

There are currently no plans to fill the role of creative director, which Coddington is vacating. That’s because the stylist is contracted to produce at least four editorial spreads a year for the publication and will retain an office at Vogue’s offices at One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan.

While her voice will remain essential to the direction of American Vogue, this is the first time since joining the magazine in 1988 that Coddington will be permitted to work on external projects, including an upcoming fragrance with Comme des Garçons. "I really love Vogue, it's been in my life always, they discovered me as a model at 19," Coddington told BoF in an exclusive interview. "I'm not running away from Vogue, because it has opened so many doors. But it will be nice to collaborate, and nice to go out [and] give talks to people. It's just another approach. I'm certainly not going into retirement. I don't want to sit around."

Coddington, 74, will be represented by Great Bowery, a super-agency founded in 2015 by Matthew Moneypenny, chief executive of Great Bowery and founder of image-licensing company Trunk Archive, which represents Bruce Weber and Annie Leibovitz, among others. Other agencies under the umbrella of the Great Bowery group include CLM (which represents Juergen Teller), Management + Artists (Vanessa Traina) and Tim Howard Management (Jeanine Lobell). "We are extremely honored to have Grace Coddington join Great Bowery and look forward to supporting and working with one of the most original, iconic and deeply creative figures in the fashion world," said Moneypenny, in a statement to BoF. "I'm sure it comes as no surprise that we are already receiving very significant and interesting inquiries which we look forward to exploring."

It's just another approach. I'm certainly not going into retirement. I don't want to sit around.

Coddington is the first talent to be represented directly under the Great Bowery moniker. “I suddenly realised that I needed some help from outside,” Coddington said of the decision to sign with the agency. “I didn’t want to be pigeonholed into just styling a shoot, I wanted to do something beyond. I approached them and they were willing to help me on all sorts of aspects. They’re thinking up ideas for me, which is fun.”

The firm will focus on projects beyond Coddington’s styling work, from her “Catwalk Cats” illustration series — which may be turned into an animated film — to the aforementioned collaboration with Comme des Garçons. “That is something I’m really excited about,” Coddington said of the collaboration. “I’ve always been a big fan of Comme des Garçons. I never take the commercial approach, and the process of it is fascinating to me. I don’t know how to produce a perfume.”

Born in Anglesey, Wales, Coddington began her modeling career aged 17. In her mid-20s, she joined British Vogue and spent more than 20 years at the publication, most of them as its fashion editor. Two years after moving to New York to work for Calvin Klein, Coddington was hired to be the fashion director of American Vogue by newly appointed editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. (The two first worked together in the 1970s at British Vogue.) While Coddington is just one of many staffers who have remained loyal to Wintour for multiple decades, it's clear that their partnership will be remembered as one of the most seminal in the history of fashion.

Unsurprisingly, Coddington’s decision to pursue work beyond Vogue was something she and Wintour discussed extensively. “Anna and I always check in with each other. It grew out of those conversations,” she said. “I guess I kept going to her and saying, ‘Do you mind if I do a book, do you mind if I do a thing?’ She has always been really respectful of me, just as I am respectful of her. She saw that I wanted to branch out a little bit.”

The symbiotic relationship between the two was well documented in the 2009 documentary The September Issue, in which Coddington — who was initially reluctant to participate — emerged from the film as a bona fide star, whose charm and creative vision became widely appreciated beyond the confines of the fashion industry. The public response inspired Coddington to write her memoir, Grace, published in 2012, which was optioned by A24 films, makers of Ex Machina and Obvious Child. This fall, Phaidon will release a follow up to 2002's Grace: Thirty Years of Fashion at Vogue, which will document Coddington's work from the past 15 years.

The news of Coddington's shifting role comes at an interesting time for American Vogue, which is investing more and more resources into its digital presence, which has grown significantly in recent cycles. (Vogue.com — which encompasses Voguerunway.com — currently employs 54 people.)

Coddington seems unfazed by the changes the fashion industry — and American Vogue — have undergone since her tenure at the magazine began. “Overall, it’s not different,” she said of her work at Vogue. “It’s always of the moment and the moment always changes. I would never want to give it up.”

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