Time check: 10.30pm. I am all prepped for a very important phone interview. Admittedly, I am slightly nervous. But there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be. I am about to speak to one of fashion’s most powerful women – Grace Coddington. In her 48 years at British and American Vogue, the legendary creative director has captivated the fashion set with her highly memorable editorials, which are so romantic they are often referred to as works of art. “Grace Coddington’s office!” chirps her assistant on the other end of the line. And before I know it, the Grace says “hi”.
For her first big project since stepping down as Vogue’s full-time creative director, Coddington has teamed up with Tiffany & Co. to produce its Fall 2016 campaign entitled Legendary Style. Over the next 30 minutes, she reveals her fondest memory of the New York jeweller (and why its signature robin’s-egg blue box gets her excited); why she picked the women in the campaign (they include Lupita Nyong’o and Elle Fanning); and how she translated the not-so-modern word “legend” into the most modern way possible.
What is your earliest memory of Tiffany & Co.?
Probably Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I think it was that movie which brought Tiffany & Co. to a lot of people’s attention. I cannot remember when it came out, but I remember watching it and saying to myself, “God, this is just like a dream. This is New York.” And at that time I was still living in England, so the movie conjured the romantic possibility of being that girl, going into Tiffany & Co. and buying a piece of jewellery. But, honestly, I don’t think she actually spent any money there.”
You’ve spoken very fondly about its blue box.
That box has so much meaning for so many people. When you see it, you assume, almost naturally, that there is something gorgeous inside. You are immediately excited. Also, that blue is so compelling.
How did you approach this partnership?
I think we were both testing each other out. You know, to see if we liked each other. It wasn’t a done deal when I stepped through the door. There is a woman named Toni Lakis, who is Tiffany & Co.’s global creative director. We had a cup of tea at the brand’s Fifth Avenue flagship in New York and we bonded almost immediately. I knew we could do something really good together. I like to have a relationship with the people whom I work with. I don’t want to just do my thing and walk away.
What was your role?
I brought ideas from all sides: the casting, the photographer, the photography, the layout and even the general feel of the campaign. I was looking at it with a fresh pair of eyes. Developing a campaign was not something that I’ve done twice a year for 10 years. In fact, this was my first project outside working for Vogue. It was pretty exciting and I needed to know how much I could push Tiffany & Co. to believe in what I believed in. They were extremely receptive and we spent a lot of time discussing who the girls in the campaign were going to be, or whether we would shoot them outside or in a studio. It was my idea to take it into the studio as I wanted this to be different from the brand’s previous campaigns which, generally, were shot outside.
Did you feel extra pressure being the first external creative director which Tiffany & Co. has worked with?
I always feel pressure taking on a project, be it one from Vogue or not. I take it very seriously. It doesn’t matter to me if the brand has worked with an outsider before. I feel really complimented that Tiffany & Co. chose me but I don’t think that adds any extra pressure. I am only interested in doing the job. I am not interested in being the first.
What was your challenge?
To translate words which aren’t normally modern in a modern way. The theme – Legendary Style – was decided by Tiffany & Co. I chose to define those words in the girls we photographed. The girls whom I chose – Lupita Nyong’o, Elle Fanning, Christy Turlington and Natalie Westling – are very classy, and that is a must because we are dealing with a company that is very sophisticated. They also have a modern point of view and are really good at what they do. I was also looking for a certain inner beauty. I try not to work with actresses too often but in this case, I thought it would be interesting as Tiffany & Co. hasn’t worked too often with celebrities, apart from dressing them for the red carpet. Each of them is interesting individually and, as a group, I think they are very interesting as well.
How important is it for a brand to work with actresses today?
I think it is very important because people respond to celebrities. That is why you see, on the cover of every magazine, actresses and not models. (I was a model and I think that is a shame!)