Recognised as often for her fiery red hair as her iconic work with American Vogue, the announcement that the fashion magazine’s long time Creative Director Grace Coddington is taking a step away from her influential role inspires a little shock – and more than a little admiration.
Moving into an ‘at-large’ Creative Director role, this marks the first time in thirty years that the influential stylist has been permitted to pursue projects outside of the Vogue umbrella – a desire she’s long held and previously discussed with editor and colleague Anna Wintour.
“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?’” Grace told The Business of Fashion. “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.”
Even as she held one of the fashion world’s most revered positions, the Welsh-born beauty was always keen to explore new creative territory. Now, at 74, Grace proves that neither age nor a certain corner of experience presents a limit to reaching new heights.
In fact, Grace is planning the move specifically to break new ground, not rest on her laurels. Branching out beyond her styling genius, the stylemaker and her agency Great Bowery will push work as wide-reaching as an illustration series (currently entitled ‘Catwalk Cats’), to a perfume with Comme des Garçons.
With fifty years of Vogue under her belt (twenty previously served at the British edition), Grace is virtually inseparable from the titles and many would understandably find a move outside of such a successful comfort zone a daunting task. This is where one of Grace’s greatest career lessons comes in: never get too comfortable – even after fifty-odd years of achievement.
“I’m not running away from Vogue, because it has opened so many doors,” Grace said of her new position. “But it will be nice to collaborate, and nice to go out [and] give talks to people. It’s just another approach.”
The idea that now, after over half a century in the same environment, the former model is considering ‘another approach’ to her career is nothing short of inspirational. And don’t expect her to slow down on her other commitments either – it seems she’s just getting started.
“I’m certainly not going into retirement,” she insists. “I don’t want to sit around.”
If you’re also considering branching out, here’s how to do it, Grace-style:
PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS
She may be taking her career in a new, exciting direction, but Coddington hasn’t given up on what she loves most: creating things. Branching out in the ‘how’ of what she’s doing rather than the ‘what’ means that she can spread her wings and take risks, all without ever deviating from what she knows she’s good at.
DON’T BURN BRIDGES
Grace always gracefully acknowledges her Vogue past and with good reason: it’s been her gateway to success and could very well help her in the future. It’s important when taking things in a new direction that you don’t close off the potential to revisit things once you’ve moved on: be it a relationship with a colleague or a previous standing with a company. Always be grateful for an opportunity that you’ve had – even the bad ones show you what you don’t want from your future.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
While some may contend that Grace is leaving at a strange time considering her age, taking on new projects now, after years of experience and after an opportunity to solidify her standing in the fashion world, is arguably the perfect time to venture out. If she was new to the scene, making tracks may have taken a little longer. Now, everyone knows she’s great at what she does and is eager to have her on board.
FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS
Grace’s constant enthusiasm for side projects shows that she never lost her passion for creating inspirational work and now, she’s about to reap the benefits on her own terms. While she may have had many chances to realise personal dreams while at British and US Vogue, she’s never given up on the chance that she’ll be able to captain her own projects, even at a later stage in life.