The story of GingerNutz, the Bornean orangutan at the center of Michael Roberts and Grace Coddington's series of illustrated books, is a heartwarming tale of what the fashion industry could be like if we all took ourselves a little less seriously. Sure, she's a monkey — but, even in the toughest of places, like Paris Fashion Week, the setting of their second installment, GingerNutz Takes Paris — she's as qualified as any other model trying to make a name for herself in the business. But how GingerNutz was born is a tale just as charming as the fashion icon herself.
It goes like this: A few years ago, when Coddington's birthday was on the horizon, her best pal of more than 30 years, longtime Vanity Fair fashion director and journalist Roberts, drew an invitation for her that depicted the legendary Vogue editor as a chic, orange-haired orangutan. "She didn't get the invitation because the people around Grace — talking for Grace rather than talking to her — thought that she'd be completely offended," Roberts says. "So my invitation got trashed. But months later, I sent Grace an email with it and she replied immediately saying how much she loved it and asked why I didn't develop this character."
Later, the duo's first book, GingerNutz, hit bookstores everywhere. The story of the orangutan supermodel taking the fashion industry by storm actually did just that. Now, in its sequel, and inspired by the events of Coddington's life, the model-cum-stylist-cum-editor still doesn't mind the simian comparison. In fact, they share the same unfazed outlook on life: "She is me," she tells Refinery29. She recalls a quirky one-liner that Roberts, who also ghostwrote Coddington's memoir, once quipped to her: "Fashion editors — even a monkey can do it."
While that may be true (sorry, Anna and co.), GingerNutz is indeed a reflection of Coddington on the inside and out. They share the same ubiquitous, citrusy mane, yes, but they also share a deep love for clothes. Like Coddington, GingerNutz is unassuming and a natural-born talent. Roberts sums it up best: "GingerNutz is quite innocent. She was found in the jungle and she became a model and then she embarks on this journey into fashion," he explains to Refinery29. "She truly just loves fashion. There's no cynicism there. And then she gets to wear these beautiful clothes and she's thrilled to be sent to Paris and book major modeling jobs there, much in the way Grace did in her life. Grace has an affinity with fashion, and it's very different from the commercial and cynical, branded crap that you get today."
GingerNutz's charms are a perfect respite from our current social-media-saturated age, Coddington and Roberts agree. "It's very touching in terms of not being involved in the world of Instagram and Facebook and all that. It would not have the same charm," Roberts says.
Ahead, we compiled some of our favorite illustrations by Roberts from the book. Don't worry, there are plenty more looks where these came from. So, without further ado — and as the story goes: Vive la GingerNutz!