It is a truly beautiful day in New York and I am inside the café at Dover Street Market, the cool store that begat all the cool stores, trying to keep my own cool as Grace Coddington sits across from me, ready to chat. I grew up obsessively reading my mom's issues of Vogue. Its pages covered my notebooks at school and the walls in my teen bedroom. In revisiting those same images throughout the years, I came to realize that most of my favorite photographs were part of Grace's body of work — remember the incredible Alice in Wonderland portfolio that featured the model Natalia Vodianova as Alice and a bunch of fashion designers, from Marc Jacobs to Karl Lagerfeld to Nicolas Ghesquière, as the other iconic characters? Yeah, that was Grace. Even if you aren't a fashion aficionado, you are probably familiar with Grace as the surprise star of the Vogue documentary The September Issue. Her quiet romanticism was in fierce contrast to the fast-paced, money-takes-all vibe expected from the fashion industry. She also has an iconic fluff of red hair that is both a crown and a halo.
We are here because Grace has reconfigured her role at Vogue — she's now creative director at large — to allow her time to pursue other projects. The first is a perfume that bears her name, created in collaboration with Comme des Garçons. If you follow her on Instagram (which you should), you'll know that Grace loves cats, especially her own, Blanket and Pumpkin, which often show up dressed in the latest fashions, in her iconic doodle style, and on her perfume bottle, which features cat ears.
Grace is charming, and laughs often. We talked about sniffing, keeping childhood memories intact, and what her ideal project would entail. After I stopped recording our conversation, we also talked about our shared love for Adam Driver, and it was a truly perfect morning.
Laia Garcia: What is your life like now that you've begun this new chapter? Are your days more relaxed?
Grace Coddington: It's extremely busy and extremely fun. I was quite busy before. Now it's sort of busier because it's not all coming out of one central thing. I'm multitasking! I go to my office at Vogue every day and work out of it, which is really convenient. I like doing projects on the side. I've done a few books … distractions, if you like. That's always been fun. I did a picture book, and then I did a drawing book, and then I did a memoir, actually. Now I'm doing another picture book, which has just gone to press.
LG: So you've got a bit of freedom.
GC: Freedom is hard and difficult. You have to make more decisions, funnily enough.
LG: How did the perfume come about?
GC: Just that I wanted to do something completely out of the realm of books. And since my name is a little bit known now, I thought I could take a chance on doing a perfume with my name. If you're too obscure, it probably won't sell. Beyond that, the challenge of putting it all together and doing something I knew absolutely nothing about was intriguing.
LG: What was it like to make a perfume?
GC: Tons and tons of sniffing. Sniffing and trying things and putting it on. Seeing if other people say, "Oh, you smell nice." You find the one you think you like and then live with it for a bit. It's a little bit like cooking — you add a bit and take a bit away.