Meeting Grace Coddington will make you want to have red, frizzy hair and smell like roses. And now, you can (at least) do the latter, because arguably the coolest woman in fashion has just entered the beauty world.
In collaboration with Comme des Garçons, the legendary Vogue creative director (she is now creative director-at-large) just launched Grace by Grace Coddington, a light fragrance that smells like a bouquet of her favorite flowers, freshly cut from an English garden — which she recommends you spray in your hair. And of course, the top of the bottle is shaped like a cat.
Besides creating incomparably evocative and heart-stoppingly beautiful imagery in the pages of Vogue for decades, Coddington is known for her unwavering love of felines. In 2006, she and her longtime boyfriend, legendary hairstylist Didier Malige, even released a book of her adorable cat drawings called The Catwalk Cats. And although she is an outspoken adversary of social media, you can find the 75-year-old's current kitty doodles on her Instagram. Oh yeah, she's pretty well-known for that hair, too.
Ahead, I chat with the former model about how she maintains her fiery mane (maximum dyeing, minimal styling), the time she made Kate Moss get hair like hers, and her thoughts on Kendall, Kylie, and Gigi Hadid.
What was the most important thing to you when creating this fragrance?
"I really don't like strong perfumes that are sort of clingy. My main thing was not to have something heavy. I wanted it to smell like roses, but very fresh roses. So it's very light."
Were you very involved in the process of making it?
"Yes, of course, I'm a control freak."
After The September Issue documentary came out in 2009, you were suddenly famous. How did you adjust to that?
"Well, I've had to. It's fine — people are always very nice. There is a difference between me and one of those big celebrities, when fans overwhelm them and it's scary. It’s never like that, with me, people are very respectful. I do notice, though — you see from a distance that someone recognizes you because of their body language. I see it on the subway, them shuffling along."
Does it ever make you uncomfortable?
"No, they're always just really sweet, and they always want a selfie. I'm like, 'Oh god, how's my lipstick? I look terrible today…' But you know what? It's actually kind of nice in the morning if you are a bit stressed or down or something, and someone just says, ‘You know, I just love what you do.’ I mean, how could it not make you feel cheerful?"
When did you start embracing your natural hair texture?
"I am all about that, actually, I have been doing it for a long time. It's funny, I think it got more texture-y as I got older — I think your hair gets coarser as you get older. Back in the day, my mother used to perm it, so I had a home perm when I was a teenager. Then, I started working with Vidal Sassoon — and that was a very straight look. They used to iron it. I come from the era when they actually used to iron it with an iron. Seriously.
"I became really conscious of my hair because I had that very famous five-point cut. Vidal Sassoon did it on me first back in England, before Peggy Moffitt and all those other people. I have very good, strong hair, so hairdressers like me. My boyfriend is a hairdresser."
Have you learned anything from your boyfriend when it comes to hair or beauty?
"Not really [laughs], but he does cut my hair — about once a year."
Do you air- or blowdry?
"Depends on if I'm in a hurry. If I'm in a hurry I dry it, if I'm not I just leave it. I prefer if I can just leave it, because it's more curly."
What about products?
"I don't use any products, I just use shampoo. Louis Licari has done the color since I have been in America. But now, because my hair is so gray, I have to go every two weeks — it's really annoying."
Are there any beauty moments you particularly loved from any of your shoots?
"I did a shoot quite a long time ago with Juergen Teller and Kate Moss. Actually, my boyfriend did the hair and he made Kate have hair like me, but even more so, like big and frizzy. I loved that moment. It's that awful thing, people always make their subjects look a bit like themselves. I mean, I love all the redheads. They were never a favorite at Vogue, but…"
What about Karen Elson? I feel like she's gotten a lot of coverage.
"I love Karen, yes. Well, that was because I am pushing for her like crazy! I also love all the new ones, like Natalie Westling and Rianne van Rompaey. They're gorgeous."
Models [like Karen and Kate] have always been celebrities, but what do you think about Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner's celebrity?
"They are a different kind of celebrity — they represent this moment in time very much. It's hard to say... It sort of annoyed me at first, but I do think both Gigi and Kendall are really good models, and that they could’ve [gotten where they are] without all that Instagram. It's just now that everybody is judged by how many followers they have and things like that — which is a shame. It's almost like, if you ram it down your throat, I find it unattractive. But, as I said, they have the personality and the beauty that would probably have made them as important as they are anyway, without the added importance of Instagram."
Have you come around to social media?
"No. [laughs] I mean, I do Instagram. I don't personally do it myself, my business partner Gabe does. But I know what is going up every time. She just tells me, ‘Okay, we've got to do one about the perfume, draw me this…’ It’s still mostly drawings, so then it's fun for me. We do videos, too, little animations, which is really fun."
Do you still draw all the time?
"Yeah, I like doing it. At first, I only drew cats and I only drew my cats. So, The Catwalk Cats was actually a load of faxes I used to fax my boyfriend, but rather than write a fax, I would tell him what I was doing via drawings of my cats. So I would draw my cats driving the car or whatever with just a little caption underneath, because it was more amusing."
You have quite a signature look. What do you think of Kylie Jenner and other young girls changing their hair all the time?
"I used to change my hair all the time, I really did. I changed the color, I grew it very long, I cut it very short. I was always doing that until I stopped modeling and this became my signature look. When you're modeling you can't have a signature look, you have to be whatever people want you to be, but when I became a fashion editor I adopted this look. I changed it a couple of times, cut it off, but then I always went back to this."
So many editors have signature looks. Do you think that’s important?
"No. I think what you need is something so you don't spend time obsessing over yourself, so you have more time to obsess about the pictures, and the clothes, and the beauty, or whatever. I find you almost need a uniform. When you go out for a special dinner, you can dress up — although I never do anymore. But I think if you see someone too obsessively dressed who is a fashion editor, you sort of know that all their energy is going into themselves."
Finally, what lipstick are you wearing?
"It's Pat McGrath for Dolce & Gabbana."