In 2007 American Vogue’s Creative Director, Grace Coddington, made a comment that stunned me given her by then iconic status:
You’ve got to have something to put your work in; otherwise it’s not valid.
It came part way through the chaos of “The September Issue”, a feature-length film charting the preparation of American Vogue’s annual tome known in the fashion industry by the movie’s name.
Her words were spoken almost as a shrug, an aside to the camera at a time when Coddington and her boss editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, clashed endlessly over artistic input. Coddington questioned her motivation to stay on, basically asking “well if my vision (work) is not ‘in a magazine’ will it have any meaning (validity)?”
And her contention is a powerful philosophy for those employed as creatives, a term I’ve defined before: artists, performers, writers, entrepreneurs, designers, thinkers etc. For it asks:
Is our value really a measure of our acceptance by others?
I love Coddington’s frankness for if life is a fickle spark measured in years, days, and hours then yes: it matters a great deal how one’s legacy is preserved.
But in the end, when the papyrus fades, the sandstone crumbles, and the infinite overshadows our dust does legacy actually count at all?
I believe Coddington has it right but not to the extent she suggests. To me it depends on whom we touch in the present.
If I make just one person think right now through these words, isn’t my job as a writer done? But if I help sell a million copies of a print magazine that influences the fashion habits ten times that number, well yes, definitely, I’ve done very well—for my hip pocket too.
There then the real question lies. What does Coddington mean by “valid?” Is she referring to a self-perception of efforts or their economic worth denoted by a title and salary? Is human value just a pecuniary thing?