A Profile of the Twentieth Century's 'Empress of Fashion'
Diana Vreeland was nicknamed the 'Empress of Fashion,' and the nickname fit. For more than half a century, Mrs. Vreeland was the world's most recognized and authoritative arbiter of style, wielding extraordinary influence on international culture, art and fashion from her lofty platform at Harper's Bazaar, where she held the title of Fashion Editor.
As Mrs. Vreeland says during an on camera interview for Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel, the documentary that is both a profile of and a tribute to the 'Empress,' I wasn't a fashion editor, I was the ONLY fashion editor."
The job was one that she loved, and one that she wore well. During her tenure at Harper's Bazaar, Mrs. Vreeland repeatedly created new cultural trends by forging an ongoing media nexus between fashion, photography and the other graphic arts, music, dance and other cultural expressions, travel and publishing. She boosted many clothing designers' haute careers and raised the likes of Betty (aka Lauren) Bacall, Angelica Houston, China Machado and Twiggy to star status as cover girls, each with a catalog of style-setting photo shoots in exotic places under her belt, so to speak.
Mrs. Vreeland's editorial point of view reflected what seems to have been her personal perspective of life as an ongoing gala. She always wanted to be "where the action was" and, frequenting NYC's hot spots, she hung out with Jackie O, Andy Warhol, Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson and a host of other celebrities whom she deemed charming and, perhaps more importantly, exciting because they had designed lives that they wanted, and then lived them -- as had she.
Woman About Town
Mrs. Vreeland's woman about town profile left a wealth of archival footage and photos of her at work and at play. Filmmaker Lisa Immordino Vreeland, the 'Empress's' granddaughter-in-law, makes good use of moving and still images, including clips from interviews with Diane Sawyer, Jane Pauley and Dick Cavett, to indicate the extent of Mrs. Vreeland's reach and capture the flavor of her grande dame personality. The profile presented is almost entirely positive, with a roster of leading fashion designers praising Mrs. Vreeland for her creativity, imagination, unique vision, appreciation for and ability to spot whatever was new and exciting. There are the occasional comments -- one in particular from actress Ali MacGraw who worked for a while as Mrs. Vreeland's assistant -- that she was a difficult, inconsiderate task master of a boss, and overly willful in wanting things done just as she wanted them done.
The Inside Story
But apart from the archival materials, Immordino Vreeland has unlimited access to insider family information, which produces some of the film's best tidbits, including Mrs. Vreeland's own account of her childhood in Paris, and relocating to London and to the US, and her revealing comments about how her mother's frequent taunts that she was an ugly child made her feel, and about meeting and marrying the very handsome Reed Vreeland, who made her feel so special and beautiful.
Mrs. Vreeland also freely elaborates on her life's events, claiming, for example, to have known Buffalo Bill and gone shooting with him, and to have sold Mrs. Wallace Simpson the nightgowns she wore for her initial tryst with the King, and to have seen Lindbergh flying over her house on his celebrated flight. That last Lindbergh anecdote is disclaimed by one of Mrs. Vreeland's sons, who says in his interview that the flight path was nowhere near their house, and that his mother was adept at 'faction' storytelling.
Equally engaging are Mrs. Vreeland's stories about how she got her start at Harper's -- when the magazine's editor, Carmel Snow, spotted her dancing in a club -- writing a clever column called Why Don't You…?, then becoming Fashion Editor and, after a long stint in that top job went on to head up Vogue's editorial staff. And, eventually, became curator of the fashion collection at NYC's Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she staged brilliant exhibits.
Friends and colleagues, including Diane von Furstenberg, Calvin Klein, Anna Sui, Oscar de la Renta, Richard Avedon, Manolo Blahnik ans Carolina Herrera, appear on camera to speak about Mrs. Vreeland's rare creative insight, great flare and enormous influence on contemporary lifestyle and culture.
As a biographical documentary, Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel is complete and satisfying. As a leading character, Mrs. Vreeland is entirely entertaining. And so is this documentary profile of and tribute to her.
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- Title: Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel
- Directors: Lisa Immordino Vreeland, Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt (co-director) and Frédéric Tcheng (co-director)
- US Theatrical Release Date: September 21, 2012 (limited)
- Running Time: 86 mins.
- MPAA Rating PG-13 for some nude images
- Parents Advisory: content advisory for parents.
- Locations: New York, London, Paris, French countryside, North Africa and elsewhere.
- Language: English, and French and Italian, with English subtitles
- Distribution: Samuel Goldwyn Films (US Theatrical)
- Official Website
- Official Trailer