Vogue’s beloved creative genius is stepping down—so she can work more

Grace (with photographer Bruce Weber).
Grace (with photographer Bruce Weber).
Image: Getty Images/Monica Schipper
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Vogue’s beloved creative director, Grace Coddington, is stepping down, Business of Fashion reported this morning. She has held the post for nearly 30 years.

While the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, is known for her calculated decision-making and business savvy, Coddington is something of a fashion fairy godmother. Her collaborations with models and photographers have created some of Vogue’s most impractical, fantastic, and unforgettable fashion images.

In 2003, Coddington orchestrated what she described as her favorite shoot ever: an Alice in Wonderland-themed spread photographed by Annie Leibowitz, starring model Natalia Vodianova as a painfully stylish Alice, opposite a cast of famous designers as supporting characters. Marc Jacobs was the caterpillar, Jean Paul Gaulter was the Cheshire Cat; and so on.

Here she is, creating a “tartan moment” with photographer Arthur Elgort.

Coddington emerged as something of a celebrity, hero, and “anti-Anna” in the 2009 documentary The September Issue, which revealed her charming manner and creative process—as well as outrage and dismay when a portion of her work was cut from the issue.

Since then, she has produced an increasing number of independent projects, including her 2012 memoir, Grace, which chronicles her rise from Wales, where she was discovered as a teen model. Coddington is also a hero among cat ladies for her Catwalk Cats illustrations, which Business of Fashion reports may become an animated film.

It sounds as if Coddington’s role change—she will now be Vogue’s creative director at-large—is designed to make more time for such independent projects. She has already enlisted a creative “super-agency” and even has a fragrance with Comme des Garçons in the works.

To the relief of fashion-lovers and Vogue-readers everywhere, Coddington will still produce four fashion shoots per year for Vogue. There are no plans for her replacement at the moment.

Coddington, who is 74 years old, is clearly brimming with colorful ideas and eager collaborators. She says her role change is simply the next step in her career. For those who put their whole selves into their work—whether a diplomat such as Jimmy Carter or artist such as Henri Matisse—retirement seems hardly to be an option.

“I’m not running away from Vogue, because it has opened so many doors,” Coddington told Business of Fashion. “But it will be nice to collaborate, and nice to go out [and] give talks to people. It’s just another approach. I’m certainly not going into retirement. I don’t want to sit around.”