Icons: Diana Vreeland

“Before there was Daphne Guinness, before there was Lady Gaga, there was the original style setter – Diana Vreeland,” – Town & Country writes in its review of “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel“, a new book about the career and influence of a legendary editor of Harper’s Bazaar. We can’t wait to read the book and see the eponymous movie (shown at the Venice and Telluride film festivals), but first we’d like to look at Diana Vreeland’s life and work as part of our Icons series.

Diana Vreeland in her red apartment

Gift

A fashion editor for Harper’s Bazaar, chief editor of Vogue and curator of the Costume Institute at the Met, this stylish Paris-born New Yorker is truly one of fashion’s legends. Known for reinventing the job of fashion editor, Vreeland has been credited for starting a “totally new profession” by Richard Avedon himself. Not only did she choose clothes to be featured in the magazine, oversaw the photography, and worked with the models; she was able to recreate the world of some of the societies’ most ravishing personalities – their conversation, interests and atmosphere around them – on the pages of her magazine.

Diana Vreeland's Harper's Bazaar

Diana Vreeland at her desk

Message

Known for her eccentricity, Diana Vreeland had a very strong opinion on fashion. But above all, she knew that style, elegance, beauty – all these things can only survive in the company of the right mindset. Vreeland said: “You gotta have style. It helps you get up in the morning. It’s a way of life. Without it you’re nobody. I’m not talking about a lot of clothes.” And she proved this philosophy by her own example.

Interview cover featuring Diana Vreeland

Cause

Vreeland is not famous for being a philanthropist, yet she touched the lives of many by teaching women how to be confident, elegant, original and even risky – while staying yourself. No one put it better than Angelica Huston: “Nobody did pure female glamour like Dick Avedon, and no one knew it like Diana Vreeland. She had this taste for the extraordinary, the extreme, the royal, the rich and the tasty. She made it okay for women to be ambitious, for women to be outlandish and extraordinary, and for women to garner attention.”

Diana Vreeland and Jessica Parker as Mrs. V in a 2009 Harper's Bazaar

Style

Elegance, sharp tailoring, eccentric accessories (such as her signature turban) and exotic shoes: this was Diana Vreeland’s chic avant-garde style. As for brands, Diana gave her preference to Chanel and Mainbocher. An interesting fact? Vreeland never left the house without having the soles of her shoes polished.

Diana Vreeland at work

My good friend Stephen Gan is the founder of Visionaire, and his 37th issue was titled “The Vreeland Memos“. This limited edition publication is definitely worth checking out if you’re a true Vreeland fan as we are! – Joe

Vreeland Memos by Visionaire

A memo by Diana Vreeland from 1966, Courtesy of Visionare

Sources: The Divine Mrs. V (NYMag); Diana Vreeland: Remembering Fashion’s Most Fearless Force (Barneys); Fashionista: A Century of Style Icons (Simon Werle).