If there’s one icon in the world of fashion publishing it has to be the Empress of the editors: Diana Vreeland.
Parisian by birth and New Yorker at heart, her career including Vogue and Harper’s Baazar make her the woman who turned everything she touched into glamour. She was the inventor of the word “cool”.
Devoid of beauty she had to develop her talent. If we add that she had an intuition that made her able to make the most of any kind of eccentricity, you understand why she came to reign in New York from the forties to the eighties.
Discoverer of photographers like Avedon, Munckási, Horst and Louise Dahl-Wolfe resulted in some of the most iconic photographs of the twentieth century. Her arrival into the world of fashion publishing changed the style of the American woman. She had such a passion for the risky that she once declared “one may be vulgar but never boring”.
She filled magazines with energy and introduced the new concept of women in some magazines that were just full of ladies in hats, and her caustic commentaries with a touch of snobbery made her column Why don’t you? the most widely read and commented at the time. Her quotes “There is no taste, elegance is mental” or “Elegance is innate. It has nothing to do with being well dressed” are famous.
She was discovered by Carmel Snow at a party and started working at Harper’s Bazaar in 1936, and in 1962 she formed part of the management of Vogue, which she reined until 1971. Through these pages that always have dictated the terms of style and taste in the world, Diana was able to capture the creativity of the greatest designers of her time with her inspiration, her artistic sensibility and captivating personality.
After being fired from Vogue because of her too expensive editions, she worked in the field of fashion history, making numerous exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum where she contributed with a breath of fresh air; new, risky and very successful.
Vreeland made history not only as a fashion icon, but also for her flamboyant and incisive way ahead of fashion and style. In our age of constant change, and where, as Andy Warhol predicted, everyone is famous for 15 minutes, Diana Vreeland remains a present spirit.
She was not beautiful, but had a different and exciting elegance. She claimed to see the future. Her refined and exotic style made more simple garments and jewellery trendy. She was also famous for breaking the rules and conventions. Contradictory, frivolous and profound, she is famous as the arbiter of elegance while declaring that “we all need a hint of bad taste”. Personality was the elegance that really mattered.
As she got older she became blind but her indomitable spirit led her to declare that she had become blind from seeing so much beauty. She was madly in love with her husband and upon learning that he had been with a younger woman; she faced her rival saying “Miss, I need him more than you because I am older”.
Her maid said that in her last moments she shouted with her loud voice “do not stop the music, or I’ll tell my father”. Logic, for a woman who danced with life, created trends, and always followed the rule “we should give the public what they never knew they wanted”.
Today her name is in the news again because a book has been written, a movie is being made and an exposition about her work just opened at the Fortuny Palace of Venice. The title of the exposition couldn’t be clearer: “Diana Vreeland after Diana Vreeland”.