Creative Director Of American 'Vogue' Steps Down Fashion icon Grace Coddington is leaving her post as creative director of American Vogue. We learn more about her legacy, and what the change could mean for one of the most famous fashion magazines.
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Creative Director Of American 'Vogue' Steps Down

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Creative Director Of American 'Vogue' Steps Down

Creative Director Of American 'Vogue' Steps Down

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Fashion may change from season to season, but fashion editors do not, at least not at Vogue magazine. So it's big news that the American edition of Vogue is losing its legendary creative director, Grace Coddington. She's been there since 1988. At 74, she's branching out but not severing her ties. Jacki Lyden, founder of the Seams, our occasional series about the fashion culture, has more.

JACKI LYDEN, BYLINE: Tall with flaming red hair, Coddington stepped into the spotlight after the 2009 movie, "The September Issue..."

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE")

GRACE CODDINGTON: Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Ms. Coddington.

LYDEN: ...About putting together an epic issue of the magazine, 840 pages. Vogue was always a part of her life. Decades ago, it took a formerly gawky isolated Welsh kid and opened her eyes to the world.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE")

CODDINGTON: I never dreamt to be a model or never, never dreamt to be a fashion editor. But I just loved the pages and the pictures.

LYDEN: Coddington headed to London where she modeled for a decade. At Vogue, she was the resident free spirit with the dreamy layouts. In London or New York, she styled those pages with the best fashion photographers in the world, including Annie Leibovitz and Bruce Weber. Fashion critic Robin Givhan of The Washington Post says you always knew her work.

ROBIN GIVHAN: Grace always remembered and celebrated the romance and the fantasy of fashion.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

CODDINGTON: Those huge shoots that I do are the most fun.

LYDEN: That's Coddington in 2012 talking to NPR's Fresh Air about her memoir and why she enjoys fantasy-themed fashion shoots.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

CODDINGTON: Because you can really go to town. You can forget about being commercial. You can use all your creative juices, you know. It's like making a movie or a little play.

LYDEN: She and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, who hired her in New York, seemed the perfect duality. Fire meets ice. But they did spar. In this clip from "The September Issue," Coddington allows herself to be shown depressed after losing a battle over one of her special photo shoots.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE")

CODDINGTON: They've probably thrown out $50,000 worth of work. I care very much about what I do. I do, or I wouldn't be still doing it, you know. But it gets harder and harder to see it just thrown out.

LYDEN: Mary Davis, dean of the School of Graduate Studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, says she's excited to see what Coddington does next because she's a survivor who still wants to do a lot of things, a perfume, animation, another book.

MARY DAVIS: Someone who's had a career like hers and is a brand like she is has something to offer in the world of perfume or in the world of design. This seems like a natural next move.

LYDEN: Coddington will still do a few Vogue shoots each year as creative director at large. And if there's one thing she's learned from all the photographers she's worked with, it's this from "The September Issue."

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE")

CODDINGTON: Always keep your eyes open, you know. Never go to sleep in the car or anything like that. Keep watching because whatever you see out the window or wherever, it can inspire you.

LYDEN: Fashion thrives on change and yet needs its wise elders. Coddington seems to be leading the way gracefully. For NPR News, I'm Jacki Lyden.

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