Styles that strike as picture perfect

Former ‘Vogue’ stylist Grace Coddington has had her work documented in an excellent new book

 

Roald Dahl and Grace Coddington may have inhabited wildly different worlds – hers fashion, his literature – but the acclaimed stylist and famous writer have a surprising amount in common.

Both were born and grew up in Wales, both had an interest in felines (Dahl’s story Edward the Conqueror centres on a silver-haired cat) and the work of both could equally be described as whimsical, fantastical and quirky. In addition, Coddington’s drawings have occasionally been compared to those of Quentin Blake, best known for illustrating Dahl’s books.

In her foreword to Coddington’s latest book The American Vogue Years, Saoirse Ronan, who was 16 when she did her first shoot with the stylist, refers to her sense of magic – “a Welsh warrior with a passion for emotion”.

The book chronicles Coddington’s creative collaborations with 17 of the world’s leading fashion photographers with whom she has worked since 2002. The weighty tome follows the publication last year of Grace: Thirty Years of Fashion at Vogue.

The photographers include Steven Meisel, Bruce Weber, David Sims, Mert Atlas and Marcus Piggot, Peter Lindberg, Tim Walker, Steven Klein and Annie Liebovitz along with rising talents such as Jamie Hawkesworth and Karim Sadli. Liebovitz, who came to Ireland with Coddington for the 17-page shoot Wild Irish Rose in the September 2013 issue of US Vogue, writes in the introduction that “you are on another plane when you work with her. She elevates what we do”.

There are nearly 300 images from some of her most memorable shoots and what’s really interesting are the personal stories behind them and the anecdotes about working with the world’s best photographers. The images are powerful and show the influences on her work of film, art, photography and literature.

No one who sees them will forget, for instance, Alice in Wonderland with model Natalia Vodianova as Alice photographed by Annie Leibovitz in Paris, nor the cinematic photography with actor Jeremy Irvine and model Arizona Muse recreating the play and film War Horse in Dartmoor.

And the romantic imagery of lovers against the background of the Kerry mountains had special resonance for Irish readers. But whatever the scenario or narrative, as Michael Roberts points out in his essay, the focal point is always the clothes.

This year Coddington resigned from Vogue to become a creative director at large to allow her concentrate on other global projects.

She has just launched her first fragrance, Grace, with Comme des Garcons and will release a limited edition set of drawings with Artspace later this year.

“To be modern,” she once said, “is always to be one step ahead.”

Grace Coddington: The American Vogue Years is published by Phaidon on September 5th (£125).

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