Grace Coddington Is Worried About How Young and Thin Models Are

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Photo: Getty Images

Vogue creative director Grace Coddington expressed her concern about the fashion industry's attachment to very young, very thin — and many times anorexic — models, in a talk with ex–Men's Vogue editor Jay Fielden at the New York Public Library last night. With Anna Wintour gazing on from the back of the room, Coddington — a former model herself — responded to the recent controversy surrounding Ralph Lauren's recent Photoshopping debacle and the label's ex-face, Filippa Hamilton, who claims she was fired for being too fat. "It is a big problem," Coddington admitted. "I remember when I was young, they told me that if I didn't lose weight I'd be out of the show, so I spent a week living off of coffee. But I'm a very levelheaded person. These problems nowadays are with kids much, much younger than that, and that's most of the problem — when they're very young and vulnerable." Coddington feels Ralph Lauren is shouldering an unfair amount of the blame. "Most of his models are not super-skinny, so this is sort of an isolated situation, and I think it's unfair if he gets a lot of bad publicity because of it. But it is a big problem in the fashion industry. And you go to meetings to discuss it, and you think it's kind of futile, because it's such a big thing, and in the end, people are always asking for more and they're always asking for thinner."

But couldn't fashion editors unite on a healthier size for models? "They have to be a little thinner than you and I because you always photograph a little fatter," Coddington replied, "but you don’t have to go to the extremes they go to. And because they're kids, they take it too far, and they can't regulate their lives, and next thing you know they're anorexic, and it is tragic. And I don't know what the answer is, except to keep on it, which we're all trying to do. Anna's trying to do it. Personally we're not allowed, at Vogue, to work with girls who are very thin, but you never know, because you could book them and think they're a certain size, and they turn up on the shoot and suddenly they've spun into this anorexic situation. And you're on the spot and you have to get the job done and you have one day to do it, and what do you do? But you try to be responsible, as Anna is."

Coddington was even reluctant to take credit for her work in Vogue, explaining, "It's not always me. Usually Anna has all the ideas. I just interpret them and change them."