The fascination with Vogue engendered by the book and movie, The Devil Wears Prada begat the fascinating 2009 documentary, The September Issue, in which Vogue‘s imperious, inscrutable and impossible editrix, Anna Wintour, was completely upstaged by Grace Coddington, the flame-haired, Welsh-born creative director of the Conde-Nast fashion mag pictured above. Now word comes from The New York Observer that Coddington has landed a reportedly $1.2 million book deal with Random House to tell the tale of her 70 years here on Earth. And what a seven decades they’ve been. After a convent schooling in post-war Wales, she became a gorgeous model in 1960s London until a devastating car accident disfigured her face (later repaired through surgery, but ending her modeling career.) After two decades as Photograph Editor of British Vogue, she moved to New York to work with Calvin Klein, and then came on board at Vogue.
She stole the show from Wintour in the 2009 documentary about the editorial process by which the annual September issue of the magazine (the year’s biggest) is conceived, orchestrated, and created, about which, Kyle Smith of the New York Post wrote:
This peek inside the star chamber is juicy viewing on a number of levels. It’s a psychological portrait of Anna, powerful female executive, mother, daughter, perfectionist. It’s a front-row seat at how the albeit-impeccably-turned-out-but-sausage-nonetheless gets made at Vogue.
And perhaps most interestingly, it’s a snapshot of Paris before the Revolution, before the bottom fell out of the Park Avenue parquet, the world Wintour courted and documented so finely in the pages of her magazine.
Cut to the $2 million-a-year editor sipping her Starbucks in the back of a chaffeur-driven limousine that is her daily commute as the examples of a soon-to-be bygone era unfold.
As the pressure of producing a blockbuster issue mounts, Wintour jettisons $50,000 worth of photos from a shoot. One minute a designer dress is on a rack in the halls of Vogue, the next it is on her back. Heraldic assistants sounding the alarm of her arrival contrast nicely with viewers’ knowledge that, in real life, Condé Nast receptionists were all recently laid off.
Even if you don’t give a fig for fashion, it’s rare that you get to see Nero tuning up his fiddle as Rome is about to spontaneously combust.
While Wintour was almost a parody of Meryl Streep’s parody of Wintour in Prada, Coddington came across as a warm, genuinely creative, witty and loveble soul, whose passionate dedication to the glorious photographs in the issue and to her colleagues on the magazine’s staff stood in stark contrast to Wintour’s Antarctic silence and froideur.