“I’m flabbergasted” says Grace Coddington, when asked to comment on the maelstrom of attention surrounding her at Paris Fashion Week right now.
She might be the Creative Director of American Vogue but Coddington is not a woman who courts publicity. By all accounts she is shy, quiet and deliberately stays below the radar: “I don’t give interviews and I won’t go on tv, I like to keep to myself. I work for Vogue and all I want to do is my work”. So when the cameras were turned on her for the filming of The September Issue, she kept it real. And it's precisely because of the way she grumped and fought for her artistic integrity throughout the film, that Grace became its unlikely star. Asked if she regrets taking part in the film she replies with typical candour, “Well, I didn’t really have an option! No, I don’t regret it… it’s a good film.”
The last two months have seen acres of loving newsprint dedicated to the Coddington story of how a girl from rural Wales became a fashion star overcoming tragedy on the way. But what happens next in her story? Well, here in Paris where fashion week is in full swing we are seeing exactly what happens next.
And it's this: Grace Coddington is the woman of the moment. At the Balmain show she was treated like royalty. But that’s nothing compared to what happens outside the shows! After every show she attends Grace, who is 68, is besieged by young admirers, all of them wanting their picture taken with her. Or to talk with her. We saw her gamely posing for photos with fans outside Nina Ricci and happily chatting away with them. Her fame is not confined to fashion people either: she is being stopped in the street by complete strangers too.
So is the naturally shy Grace actually enjoying her new found fame?
“it’s uplifting when you’re feeling grumpy in the morning on the subway on the way to work and someone recognises you and talks to you,” she admits. “It’s funny and amusing.”
Though at first she was a bit freaked out by the attention (she says the biggest cinema where The September Issue is showing is round the corner from her house: “People see me and they know it’s me - with my red hair I can't hide”). But here in Paris it seems she is basking in the adoration. A perfectly-placed source tells us that the attention has given Grace a new lease of life and a spring in her step.
The ever-modest fashion legend says she is enjoying it while she can; “it’s probably a short-lived thing. There will be another fashion movie and another person who comes out from that.”
Before we leave her, Grazia wants to know if her brilliant book Grace: Thirty Years of Fashion at Vogue will be re-published due to popular demand? The fashion editor smiles a discreet smile “I’m seeing Karl [Lagerfeld – publisher of her book] in the morning and I'm going to pin him down”. Go Grace!
By Melanie Rickey in Paris