The fashion world loves its eccentrics, those bigger than life characters, the ones who keep that fashion wheel turning restlessly to create timeless magic. Many emulate that fashion genius, but few actually possess it. Diana Vreeland certainly did!
The amazing thing about Diana Vreeland’s legend is how her artistic influence continues to resonate and is still very much present with today’s fashion scene. Her kabuki jet-black hair and razor-sharp vermilion-red nails, cigarette in hand, often with a drink close-by, were only a few details of her idiosyncratic style and personality.
She was as famous for her dramatic flair and fashion foresight as she was for her one-liners and over-the-top quotes. She was as at home front row at the couture shows as she was hanging-out with Andy Warhol at Studio 54. Who else could wear that Blackglama mink cape with such sass?
Initially groomed by the great Harper’s Bazaar editor in chief Carmel Snow, Vreeland was fashion editor there from 1936 to 1962, moved to Vogue to become editor in chief in 1962 until her well-too-publicized ousting in 1971, and then in 1972, on the advise of Jackie O., became a special consultant to the Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art until her death in 1989. Her exhibitions were the stuff of legend rivaling in spirit those Hollywood mega-productions.
Diana Vreeland may not only be credited with discovering or popularizing slews of iconic models (from Veruschka to Marisa Berenson to Penelope Tree to Ali MacGraw), but photographers and fashion designers alike. What many may not know is her important contribution to the Kennedy inaugural. She strongly advised Jacqueline Kennedy to wear a sable muff to complement the pillbox hat that Halston made for her.
Vreeland understood the historical importance of the event as well as the power of a good fashion photograph for posterity. Diana Vreeland, then and now, is a Diva We Love.
PS: If you happen to be attending the latest Venice Film Festival, you might simply be the latest people to see this fashion maven in the act again? Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (a documentary directed and produced by Lisa Immordino-Vreeland, her granddaughter-in-law), is a part of an upcoming traveling exhibition on this legendary fashion editor to kick-off at the Fortuny Museum in Venice in March 2012.