Grace Coddington Recognized for Lifetime Achievement on Advertising's Biggest Night

Karen Elson and Grace Coddington - Getty - H 2017
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"I hope this is not a terrible mistake, because I really haven't done much advertising."

Let's be clear: When it comes to fashion editorial work, no one is more deserving of an award than the inimitable Grace Coddington. Whether it be for work during her career as a high-fashion model or her decades as the creative director of Vogue, the 76-year-old has a portfolio of work that is unrivaled by anyone in the industry.

But advertising? That's a subject not often associated with Coddington. Even during her modeling years, the Welsh redhead didn't regularly book ads, largely due to the fact that "I don't have a very commercial face," she said. And though she directed ads for Tiffany & Co in 2016, the collaboration was one of her only adventures in the world of advertising. Nonetheless, at the 2017 Clio Awards, which honor excellence in the ad industry, Coddington was handed the fashion and beauty lifetime achievement award.

“Thank you to the Clios for so graciously honoring me," she said while accepting the golden statuette on Wednesday night at the ceremony, held at New York's Lincoln Center. "I hope this is not a terrible mistake, because I really haven't done much advertising.

"Next year I will have worked at Vogue for half a century," continued Coddington, thanking British Vogue's Beatrix Miller as well as Anna Wintour for her start at the fashion bibles. "And to all the photographers, past, present, old, young — and especially Bruce Weber and Steven Klein, who are here tonight to celebrate with me — [thank you] for all of your beautiful and crazy pictures that make Vogue great." She paused, "That sounds like Trump, oh dear." 

Coddington went on to thank many of her other Vogue contemporaries, including models, set designers, hairstylists ("particularly my boyfriend, Didier Malige") and makeup artists. She also gave a brief shoutout to Toni Lakis, "who gave me my first job in advertising at Tiffany's," as well as her agents and book editors.

Presenting the award was singer/actress/model and fellow redhead Karen Elson, who first met Coddington at the start of her own modeling career. "Grace was the first person who got me in at American Vogue," said Elson of their 20-year friendship. ("I'm a sucker for redheads," Coddington interjected.) She also shared a recollection of the last time she presented her mentor with an award, during which she fell off a 12-foot stage and broke two ribs. "True story,"  said Elson.

Another familiar face from the editorial world was Allure editor-in-chief Michelle Lee, who introduced the winners in the fashion and beauty category: Australian underwear brand Bonds took home the award for fashion, while Japanese skincare line Sk-II took home the beauty award for their groundbreaking campaign which sought to change the conversation surrounding twenty-something unmarried women in China, who are often referred to as "leftovers," even by government institutions.

Clad in a glittery Erdem dress, Lee opened up to The Hollywood Reporter about the changing relationship between advertisers and editors in the ever-evolving editorial landscape.  

"Twenty years ago, there a was a thought that was, 'Don't mix church and state,'" she said of the strict delineation between advertising and editorial content. "Nowadays, we absolutely still need to have that integrity, but still, we're business people. We need to make money. And branded content has been that thing that has helped editors be creative in different ways so that we can then partner with our advertisers and still make something together that gets their message across and gets our message across."