October 21, 2012

Grace Coddington's Fashion Wonderland

This weekend I attended Teen Vogue's Fashion University program with a few hundred other fashion enthusiasts. Much of the discussion was naturally hinting towards the future with an audience of teenagers to young 20-somethings who have yet to break into their aspired fields. Simultaneously, there was an air of dreaming as we spent a day and a half attending lectures with fashion's greatest from the storied and emerging scenes.
The opening keynote featured Vogue creative director Grace Coddington speaking about the evolution of her career, some of her most memorable shoots both as a model and behind the scenes, and answering a myriad of audience questions.
What I found most inspiring was her elaborations on the renowned Alice in Wonderland shoot in 2003 for Vogue. It is perhaps one of the most famous fashion editorials from our modern era, in addition to being one of Grace's favorite shoots from her career.

One reason why Grace is so successful is because of her ability to weave an imaginative narrative that guides each of her fashion stories (a name that now seems quite fitting). She admittedly loves fairy tales and whilst her take on Alice on Wonderland is loyal, the high-fashion spin brings the almost haunting mysticism into an entirely new dimension.

I find color choice in Grace's editorial to be quite intriguing. Alice's garments (she is played by then-rising model Natalia Vodianova) exclusively incorporate shades of blue. While this calls to mind much of the imagery of Alice in sky blue, blue itself represents something of a paradox.
Blue was a late arrival to art in ancient cultures because of the comparative complexity of the pigment, thus it was rare and considered prestigious and luxurious. Many royals throughout history donned blue garments; in 13th-century France, blue became the royal color with the reign of King Louis IX. It seems a fitting hue for couture.
Yet blue is many things at once: it commonly represents melancholy in our society, whereas it can symbolize happiness as with blue skies. Blue can be the color of mourning, but Egyptians consider blue a shield to protect the dead from evil.

Here, blue is a pattern of every characteristic. It is fantasy and reality, flavored by the tinge of nobility. Blue is Alice's innocence, and it is her protector in an unknown Wonderland. Each image takes on a different persona with a new blue frock, and this is in part what makes the editorial seem so real.

All photographs belong to Vogue

As an aftermath of this weekend's event, I have been thinking a lot about the future and about fantasy. There are many differences between the two, yet there are points at which they meet.

Every fantasy has a narrative - more than one, I should say. There is no right path to the future we may hope for, but we can find a fairy tale and bring it to life in our own way.


  1. So so so fabulous. And I just saw Alice in Wonderland while I was getting my manicure today!

  2. This is really an amazing editorial. I remember seeing that picture of Natalia with the mad hatter so many times; so glad I got to see the rest of the editorial
    Lily KG

  3. I love this whimsical editorial! The blue dresses unify it beautifully.