Grace Coddington on a lifetime of storytelling

From creating the most whimsical stories at American Vogue to collaborating with Louis Vuitton and starring in the first-ever insider fashion documentary – The September Issue, Grace Coddington talks to Savoir about a lifetime of storytelling.


Image of Grace Coddington on her bed and Savoir mattress, wearing all black attire with her cat Jimmy

When The September Issue first premiered in 2009, many were yet to learn the name, Grace Coddington. Starring alongside Anna Wintour, the legendary then editor-in-chief of American Vogue, she quickly became an icon of her own. In her signature all-black attire and long, curly red hair, she took the audience on a journey of creating one-of-a-kind stories for the magazine.


Following her appearance in the documentary, her book ‘Grace: A Memoir’ gave even further insight into a career that spans over five decades. Born in Wales, with a trail of success as a model in London, Coddington swiftly found her place behind the scenes of photoshoots at British Vogue. But when she was ready for a new challenge, she packed up a suitcase and moved to New York. Creative directing and styling some of the most memorable campaigns across the ocean, she eventually found herself back at Vogue to continue crafting creatively daring stories. This time, however, she could execute her vision on a much larger scale at American Vogue. “If [Anna] Wintour is the Pope, Coddington is Michelangelo, trying to paint a fresh version of the Sistine Chapel 12 times a year.” exclaimed The Times magazine of her unparalleled instinct for storytelling. Now, after her departure from Vogue, she shows no signs of slowing down in her creative path.


When Grace visited our New York showroom earlier this year, we were instantly enchanted by her creative spirit. Creating the perfect mattress that fit her sleep habits and needs was an experience that led us to a conversation about this city, and how its shaped her career. Join as Grace talks to Savoir about the inspiration behind some of her most recognised work, the lessons she’s learnt throughout her career and why good sleep is the most precious luxury to her.


Grace Coddington wearing a nightgown resting on her Savoir mattress with her cat Jimmy
Grace Coddington with her cat, Jimmy. All imagery credited to Christophe von Hohenberg.

Your experience is valuable even if the world has moved on. Hold on to your friends. Always be dependable. If you say you will do something, make sure you do it, there is nothing worse than letting people down.


Grace Coddington

Savoir: Is there a particular moment in your career that’s been the absolute highlight for you?


Grace Coddington: I think when I packed up and left England for America was a pretty big moment for me. It was taking a big jump both in my career and private life. When I first came here, [I] worked for Calvin Klein, which was a fantastic introduction to this country but I missed magazines. So, I soon went to US Vogue, which was a huge challenge – it was finally [about] working with the ‘Big Boys’ and I was measured at a global level. It was exciting, and demanding, and rewarding, all at once.


Finally, culminating with my memoir, which I would have never had the opportunity to write, had it not been for my participation in the film ‘The September Issue’, which kind of made me a household name. It was on The Times Bestseller list for several weeks.


 


You’ve created some of the most iconic and whimsical stories throughout your career. How do you remain inspired and where do your ideas usually stem from?


It is strange, over the years my inspirations have come from a wide variety of influences. Gardens and their magic have always inspired me, leading me to fairy tales. My absolute favourite was Alice in Wonderland with Anne Leibovitz. A huge production with weeks of preparation – I was involved with every aspect to do with it, from the idea and casting to the layout. It was as close to perfection as anything I’ve ever been entrusted with. I am truly proud of it.


Sadly, the romance of fairly tales like that (and the budgets for them) have passed. They are no longer relevant. But happily, stories on lifestyle intrigue me too, and that can just come from looking around me… Also, films have always been a great place to find stories and ideas.


 


You have travelled a lot throughout your life, how do you maintain healthy habits and ensure you get enough rest when on the go?


I haven’t done so much travelling since I left Vogue – it was beginning to tire me out – living out of a suitcase. I like to sleep in my own bed these days, but I did enjoy seeing the world, especially when working for Vogue it was made so easy.


[My tip would be] That when you’re travelling with a team, always have someone to show you the way. I was very spoilt – still am these days when I go to the incredibly special locations of Louis Vuitton cruise shows – Brazil, Japan, Italy, south of France – in luxurious hands of LVMH. I am forever grateful. I always like to leave a couple of days early to get over the jet lag in a civilised manner. And drinking lots of water.


Jimmy, Grace Coddington's cat enjoying the new Savoir mattress paired with crisp, white bed linen in our trademark Trellis ticking
Grace and her cat Jimmy enjoying a rest on their Savoir mattress.
Grace Coddington wearing a nightgown resting on her Savoir mattress with her cat Jimmy

I am a perfectionist and no one has time for that. Having said that, there are still projects I want to do, like another ‘Catwalk’ book. And I am making an animated version with Disney, so that is exciting. And I’d like to do another book on my work since leaving Vogue.


Grace Coddington

When you departed from your role at Vogue, you’ve mentioned that you had no intention of slowing down. So, what’s next on your agenda?


Well, I think I was a little over-ambitious. Right afterwards I was indeed pretty busy, but life has inevitably slowed down now. It is now several years on and I am several years older. There’s been the pandemic and that changed everything.


Nowadays it seems only younger people are wanted in the work force and they have a very different energy. I am a perfectionist and no one has time for that. Having said that, there are still projects I want to do, like another ‘Catwalk’ book. And I am making an animated version with Disney, so that is exciting. I’d like to do another book on my work since leaving Vogue. And drawing – I love drawing. Doing collaborations – I did a big one with Louis Vuitton, which was really fun and I’ve really loved working with you to design my new mattress – why wouldn’t I, it is the most handsome and comfortable thing in the world – thank you!


 


What’s one thing you wish you learnt earlier in your life or career?


I think to follow my beliefs and never let anything fall below my standard. You must be proud of what you do. Always help others, help the younger generation (if they will let you and listen). Your experience is valuable even if the world has moved on. Hold on to your friends. Always be dependable, if you say you will do something make sure you do it, there is nothing worse than letting people down.


Image of Grace Coddington on her bed and Savoir mattress, wearing all black attire with her cat Jimmy
Grace Coddington photographed at her New York apartment.

I’ve really loved working with you to design my new mattress – why wouldn’t I, it is the most handsome and comfortable thing in the world – thank you!


Grace Coddington

What’s one luxury you can’t live without?


Good sleep – a good night’s rest is the most important! If I don’t sleep one night, it takes me days to catch up. Bless the day I discovered Savoir beds, who were able to make me a perfect custom mattress, not just the size that fits my not standard bed but also my personal comfort level – soft, but also firm enough for my difficult back. And a topper that just tops off my every whim and desire.


 


How do you find calm after a long day, do you have a bed-time routine?


Putting my feet up. Reading the newspaper with my cats, a light meal, a glass of wine and maybe watching a documentary of one of the TV series on my iPad – going to bed early on my new mattress now it is so very comfortable – I just float away…


 


And lastly, when’s the last time you’ve done something for the first time and what was it?


I feel like I’ve tried just about everything interesting I’ve ever wanted to do, except perhaps parachute out of a plane – but I am far too much of a coward to try that!


A scan of Grace Coddington's signature

The timeless allure of bespoke pieces with Roman Thomas

Together with David Kesselman, the co-founder of New York-based Roman Thomas, we discuss our shared passion for craft, the need to slow down and the intriguing power of finding inspiration in stillness and quiet luxury.


Image of a handmade table by New York-based Roman Thomas, featuring gold brass accents on a white surface

Through a flawless illusion of simplicity, quiet luxury is making its way into our homes. With a focus on pieces that prioritise craftsmanship and high-quality materials, this is so much more than just a trend. It’s a movement. Quiet luxury means choosing items that represent quality and skill above all else. The shift is driven by the need to step off the merry-go-round of the world’s constant pursuit for the most. Instead, it draws our attention to the timeless allure of bespoke items that stand the test of time.


Just as Mondrian’s iconic artworks make their impact through a minimised approach to form and colour, this movement strips back the unnecessary distractions, so that quality and artisan techniques can take centre stage. A pared-back approach to design offers a unique opportunity to express oneself. Abandoning the commotion of trends, we can take a step back and create a home that truly is a reflection of who we are.


Inspired by an unplanned visit to a family friend in Spain, where the founders discovered a historical handcrafted lighting collection, Roman Thomas is an embodiment of quiet luxury. The New York-based furniture brand recognises that quality, not quantity, is the only way to ensure true craftsmanship continues to be championed. And through this shared passion for craft, Savoir and Roman Thomas began a partnership. Specifying bespoke beds and our signature mattresses that pair with their iconic, one-of-a-kind products. Together, we infuse homes with the timeless allure of bespoke pieces.


A close-up image of Roman Thomas' lamp, hand-crafted in New York and painted in abstract pops of colour.
Detail of The Barrel Lamp by Roman Thomas
Image of a small coffee table designed and created by Roman Thomas, featuring a black metal frame and a shiny gold top
The Stanton Table by Roman Thomas

When we see our work placed in design projects and homes in which leading renowned furniture, art and objects are installed – this is gratifying.


David Kesselman, co-founder of Roman Thomas

Earlier this summer we sat down with David Kesselman, the co-founder of Roman Thomas and dived into a conversation about craft, the need to slow down and finding inspiration in stillness. Roman Thomas’ ethos is undoubtedly reflected in David’s day-to-day life. Starting each day with an intentionally slow and mindful approach, he takes his miniature schnauzer twins, Bea and Lil, outdoors to play ball, while he enjoys a moment of quiet observing birds and squirrels. “Bea and Lil helped me break most of my prior morning habits, which were in need of a new order”, David explains.


Savoir: Does being based in New York influence the products design and manufacture?


David: Since inception we have worked with design firms across the US and internationally. Our intent is to produce timeless and relevant pieces for the global citizen. We are privileged to work with talented artisans who gravitate to New York city, where their skills are appreciated and applied to noteworthy projects.


What is the most exciting project that Roman Thomas has worked on?


When we see our work placed in design projects and homes in which leading renowned furniture, art and objects are installed – this is gratifying.  When we can share in history in the making; for example, our Plateau coffee table in the Obama Oval Office remains an enduring high point.


How do you balance work and life


This is not necessarily my strength, although taking time to participate in purely creative or meditative exercises is the best bridge towards finding balance.


Are you a morning person or a night owl?


I am a morning person! The still of the early morning after a good night’s sleep is when I can be most productive. This is a time when creative thoughts and breakthroughs are more likely to take place.


And lastly, do you have a bedtime routine?


While I naturally respond to the “magnetism” that pulls me toward sleep each evening – it’s the time of day to recall at least one good, memorable thing that verifies I gave the day my all – it’s reassuring.


Two side tables created by Roman Thomas in dark walnut with white panels and golden details
Wolcott Side Tables by Roman Thomas

I am a morning person! The still of the early morning after a good night’s sleep is when I can be most productive. This is a time when creative thoughts and breakthroughs are more likely to take place.


David Kesselman, co-founder of Roman Thomas

For many of us who live in a city, there’s a certain sense of longing for slower days and finding balance, seeking to reconnect with nature. And perhaps that’s what inspired the movement toward quiet luxury. Time-honoured techniques and skills, which have been passed down for generations, and natural materials, cared for and refined with love.


There are a few simple ways to introduce the movement into your home. As the place you spend a third of your life in, a handcrafted bed is one of the best investments you can make. Created from only the finest, natural materials, a Savoir bed elegantly nods to quiet luxury while providing you with a lifetime of restorative rest. Unique elements, such as coffee tables and lamps you can speckle around your home are also a great way to infuse your home with luxurious elements and provide an exciting outlet for self-expression.


Going forward, our homes will evoke a sense of amiability through a dialogue of history, craftsmanship and skill. Futureproofed and entirely personal, they’ll become an immaculate reflection of who we are. So, if you’re thinking about investing in a bespoke piece, our suggestion would be to seek out items that evoke a sense of joy and calmness. And take your time with it.


Contact your nearest Savoir showroom to enquire about creating your own bed, or visit romanthomas.com to discover more about the artisan pieces and the story behind some of the brand’s most notable work.