NEW YORK, United States — Right now, Grace Coddington’s favourite television show is David Letterman’s “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction,” the longform interview series, airing on Netflix, that pairs the late-night talk show host with notable figures in American culture like former President Barack Obama and actor George Clooney.
The format allows the now-retired Letterman, resplendent in a full, bushy beard, to explore the art of the interview far beyond the five-minute, quick-fire exchanges he mastered all those years ago. “It’s mind-boggling good,” says Coddington in her West Chelsea office, a shelf on the room’s longest wall lined with a row of personal photographs and drawings from before, during and after her nearly 30 years as creative director of American Vogue. “He’s interviewed people — I won’t say who! — who I don’t even like, and after he’s interviewed them I really like and respect them.”
Coddington, who left her full-time post at Vogue at the beginning of 2016, may not have four decades of late-night talk show experience, but she certainly possesses enough wit to humour a subject and attract viewers. (As evidenced by her star turn in 2009's Vogue documentary, "The September Issue".) Or at least that’s the idea as she begins filming “Face to Grace,” a six-episode talk show set to debut in September 2018 on Made to Measure (M2M), the streaming fashion network backed by IMG that premiered exclusively on Apple TV in 2016.
“It’s about having funny, not slapstick funny, but amusing conversations…funny can take up a lot of time,” says Coddington, whose first guests will include Louis Vuitton women’s artistic director Nicolas Ghesquière and the actor Ansel Elgort (the son of her longtime collaborator, the photographer Arthur Elgort). Following in the stead of the late Glenn O'Brien, whose M2M talk show “Tea at the Beatrice” gained early accolades for the channel, Coddington has also chosen a restaurant as her set: Mr Chow on 57th Street. (The owner is the restauranteur, artist and Coddington's former husband, Michael Chow, who is also slated to appear on the show.) “It’s nerve-racking because I’ve never been on TV in this capacity. I’ve been interviewed, but not the one who is in control. But I’ve chosen people who are easy to talk to on purpose.”
M2M now reaches more than 5 million unique users a month.
She may be preaching to an already converted, albeit still-niche, audience. While Hollywood has long courted fashion, there have been few crossover hits aside from competitive reality shows like "America's Next Top Model" and "Project Runway." Pop-culture moments where fashion are at the core remain few and far between, although the annual red carpet fervor around Met Gala is changing that. M2M, too, wants to have a hand. With a library of over 200 hours of runway show footage, documentaries and classic films, M2M — which IMG says now reaches more than 5 million unique users a month through its Apple TV app, the web, Amazon, Roku and Android TV — has produced original content since inception, including feature-length documentaries and shorter-form series. (This year, it won two Webby Awards: Best Mobile App in Fashion & Beauty and Best Art Direction for its original series “Slender Bodies.”)
M2M says its non-web users watch an average six or more videos per session, with an average time spent of more than 30 minutes. A recent episode of “Art of Style,” featuring Andrew Bolton, the curator in charge of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has generated more than 1.5 million views.
Regardless of whether or not Coddington — who is represented by Art + Commerce, another arm of IMG Fashion — provides the same lift, the channel sees her presence as a win. Earlier attempts to partner with the stylist while she was being represented by rival agency The Great Bowery were unsuccessful. “We’ve wanted to do something with her for quite a while,” says Susan Hootstein, M2M's executive content director. “She fits in perfectly with our line-up. Everyone knows her and loves her, and the format is fascinating. There’s a reason late-night talk shows have been so popular for so long.”
Coddington certainly has plenty of material to mine. But while some may be looking to this series to address the reckoning the fashion industry is currently facing — including, but not limited to, the New York Times' and Boston Globe’s investigations into accusations of sexual misconduct against photographers and other industry creatives including Bruce Weber and Mario Testino — Coddington does not foresee “Face to Grace” being the platform for such a conversation. “I don’t want to address that, I really don’t. That will play itself out whenever it does, and the sooner the better,” she says. “Yes, they are my friends, and it makes me sad.”