Although Grace Coddington relocated from the UK to the US in 1986, the Welsh-born creative director never lost touch with life on the eastern edge of the Atlantic. Many of her favourite photographers, from David Bailey to David Sims are British. However, if there’s one collaborator who truly captures fashion back across the pond, it’s her long-standing colleague, the photographer Tim Walker.
“The most English of Englishmen,” writes Grace in our new book Grace: The American Vogue Years, which forms part of new luxury edition boxset, Saving Grace: My Fashion Archive 1968-2016, “Tim thrives on his fantasy world, bringing to life a sense of old-fashioned charm, meticulous in all its detail. He can be exceptionally tenacious: once he gets an idea in his head, he’s like a dog with a bone and simply won’t let go. Fortunately, this usually works to our advantage."
Take the exquisite photo of Kate Moss, above, taken in Paris back in April 2012. “Vogue’s documentation of the Paris Ritz, a few days prior to its years-long closure for extensive refurbishment, provided the requisite whimsy for Tim,” Grace explains. “It was his first shoot with Kate Moss, whom he instantly adored, and she was the ideal subject: the Ritz was her home away from home. The fashion was from that season’s richly elaborate couture shows and was the perfect foil for the hotel’s fading grandeur. Somehow it summed up the end of an era."
Walker’s tenacity served him just as well in his 2014 tribute to the 20th century couturier Charles James. “In our Charles James spread, inspired by Cecil Beaton’s famous group portrait, the gorgeous – ivory-colored dresses and accessories were actually made of paper created by the set designer Rhea Thierstein – an idea from Tim’s prolific imagination.”
Indeed, Walker and Coddington seem so well matched that, even when events conspire against them, the pictures still look stunning. In our book Grace recalls a trip to the English seaside resort of Blackpool to shoot the model Karen Elson.
“The whole thing was so kitsch and fun, except for the hotel we were staying in. It was shabby, stank of cigarettes, and brought back unfortunate memories of my only childhood holiday with my family back in 1950: the moment I arrived I became sick from eating too much cotton candy on the pier and was confined to bed in a similarly run-down hotel for the rest of my vacation.”
While Grace may have suffered, the shots of Karen Elson beside the Pier were certainly worth it. You can see these and plenty more in Saving Grace: My Fashion Archive 1968-2016.