In Depth

Grace Coddington celebrates the launch of her new book

Vogue's legendary creative-director-at-large is joined by Paul Smith for a look back on her incredible career in fashion

Known for most of her career only to fashion's inner circle, international fashion icon and Vogue's creative-director-at-large Grace Coddington reached wider fame with the 2009 documentary The September Issue. Last night, at her friend Paul Smith's shop in Mayfair, she launched the second edition of the two-part document of her work. ­Grace: The American Vogue Years features her collaborations with many of the world's greatest fashion photographers, including Steven Meisel, Annie Leibovitz, Craig McDean, David Sims, Mario Testino, and Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott.

GRACE CODDINGTON

"My latest release is a sequel to Grace: Thirty Years of Fashion at Vogue. The first book featured all my work from 1968 to 2002 and was printed by Steidl Verlag. They didn't print very many and you couldn't buy it anywhere – it was selling for $5,000, which I thought was really awful.

"The original publisher didn't want to do a reprint, so I talked to Phaidon. In the process of that conversation they said, 'Why don't you do another one that starts from 2002 and goes up to the present day?' Between the two books, they encompass my whole career as a fashion editor. My life is in those pictures; it's what I do day to day.

"Over the years, I've worked with many different photographers. They all have such different qualities; you love one for a certain reason and one for another. It's all part of the game of working with people and teams. I'm prepared to go through any pain as long as the end result is worth it in the long run. Everyone wants to do his or her best and everybody struggles to find what that is and which way and direction to take. That's part of the working process, to question and find the idea. Each shoot is a new experience."

PAUL SMITH

"I first got to know Grace when I opened up my shop in Floral Street, Covent Garden, in 1979, when she was at British Vogue. Luckily for us she liked our men's clothes, because we weren't making women's at the time. She particularly used our white shirts, raincoats and jackets, putting them on all these fantastic girls, the supermodels of the time. It was through her that I got to know Bruce Weber, who has ended up being a good friend. Grace was very supportive, and then we lost her to American Vogue.

"When I was talking to Grace recently, one of the things we're both proud of is continuity. She's been at the top of her game for a while now. She does a lot of research – she selects the photographers with care, picking ones she thinks will work with that particular shoot. This book is so interesting; if you're interested in fashion you need it and if you're immersed in fashion you've got to have it.

"Originally she was a model and then, like many people in that world, ended up working as a stylist, progressing to be the creative director. What many don't realise is she's got a great sense of humour. She's always done drawings and scribbles; she has this side that a lot of people don't know about. She's one of those select people that doesn't go down the obvious route, but are slightly eccentric and lateral in the way they think."

Grace Coddington: The American Vogue Years is published by Phaidon, £125; Buy from The Week bookshop

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